Criminal Justice Alliance urges sweeping reforms following police super-complaint
15th December 2023
Today marks a significant milestone for the Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA) as His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) in partnership with the College of Policing (CoP) and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) concludes its comprehensive, 2.5-year investigation and releases its response to our super-complaint advocating for the repeal of section 60 police stop and search powers.
The report sheds light on policing’s deeply concerning failure to adhere comprehensively to legal, best practice, and training frameworks endorsed by key authorities. Forces are falling short in providing section 60 training, and some forces lack any classroom training on stop and search altogether.
The report confirmed a disproportionate number of stops and searches under section 60 for people from ethnic minority backgrounds, with no clear reasoning from the forces involved. Worryingly, the report deems child safeguarding during section 60 searches insufficient. Despite this, the report refrains from recommending the repeal of Section 60. The CJA will continue to call for the repeal of section 60 and for a comprehensive review of the legislation’s effectiveness to be conducted.
Annette So, Interim Director at the CJA says:
“We welcome the report, particularly considering its acknowledgement of failures in current policing practices. Nevertheless, we stand by our assertion that section 60 and the escalated use of stop and search causes more harm than good.
Evidence has clearly shown that s60 is used disproportionately, has a traumatic impact on communities and damages public trust with the police. The solution is to invest in tackling the root causes of crime, rather than enforcing this sweeping, draconian power.”
The report’s lack of engagement with any individuals who have experienced section 60 powers is incredibly disappointing. This omission not only raises concerns about the credibility of the methodology, but also results in an imbalanced report. The lived experiences of Black communities are often seen as an afterthought or even an aberration by institutions that deliver harmful policies that cause trauma, distress, and a loss of trust.
Annette So, Interim Director at the CJA continues:
“We appreciate the diligence of the investigators in recognising substantial aspects of the case presented in our super-complaint, More harm than good. However, by failing to engage with anyone who has experienced section 60 powers, there is a clear lack of credibility in the methodology.
Our own work shows that these groups and individuals are not hard to reach. The word ‘aggression’ consistently surfaced in discussions we have had with young people who have been stopped and searched under section 60 and their description of their interactions with the police. It is imperative we listen to the affected communities and individuals impacted by this policy, and to provide a safe space for these conversations to happen. It is only through such meaningful engagement that we can build trust.”
The CJA recently spoke to young people in South London about their experiences with stop and search, these conversations only confirm the truly traumatising impacts these powers have.
The report raises concerns about the intersection between child safeguarding and race, calling attention to the criminalisation of children and urging a review of existing protections.
Mark Blake, Policy Manager at the CJA commented:
“The safeguarding aspect of the report and the intersection between child safeguarding and race is extremely concerning to the CJA and our members. This is especially so since Child Q; the depth of feeling amongst Black communities has not been absorbed by the policing establishment and politicians. In our view, this cannot be sustained.”
The report confirms that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to be searched under section 60, and suggests useful measures, such as better use of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and Equality Impact Assessments (EQIAs). Whilst the CJA supports more adherence to PSED and effective use of EQIAs, they believe that repealing the section 60 powers is the most effective way to reduce racial disproportionality.
Desmond Brown, CJA Race disparity expert group member, and Director at Growing Futures CIC, comments:
“The lived reality of Black and brown people and the issues highlighted by the CJA must be addressed with utmost urgency. The continued use of section 60 disproportionately exposes these sections of British communities to more harm than good.”
The CJA’s response
The CJA proposes a set of recommendations, including repealing Section 60, adherence to the law and best practices, prioritising lived experiences, addressing child safeguarding, adopting evidence-based policies for serious youth violence, improving police community consultative frameworks, and addressing racial disparities through collaboration with civil society partners.