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Over a quarter of searches had 'no reasonable grounds for suspicion'

More than 250,000 of the one million searches conducted last year could have been illegal Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire

The Metropolitan Police Service, which employs more than 31,000 officers, has signed up to the Best Use of Stop and Search code of conduct previously announced by Home Secretary Theresa May, who has admitted the power was being misused.

The changes are being brought in after Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary found that 27% of stop and searches did not contain reasonable grounds for suspicion, meaning more than 250,000 of the one million searches conducted last year could have been illegal.

In addition, black and minority ethnic members of the public were up to six times more likely to be searched than white people.

Under the scheme, forces who sign up voluntarily will agree to more limits on blanket Section 60 stops, used on the anticipation of serious violence without suspicion a person is carrying weapons, while better records will be kept of each instance and published online.

The Met said it was introducing those two elements of the new plan from today and comes after Section 60 searches were used as a tactic in combating violent crime at this year's Notting Hill Carnival.

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80 stop and searches for every 100 Londoners of Caribbean descent

Figures obtained from the Metropolitan Police in a Freedom of Information request by ITV London show huge disparities in the numbers of police stop and searches for people of different ethnicities.

ITV London compared the number of stop and searches to the number of people from different ethnic backgrounds living in the capital, and found:

  • There were 2,613,686 stop and searches from Jan 2009 to March 2014
  • 279,202 of those stop and searches were on people of Caribbean descent - that equates to 80 stop and searches for every 100 people.
  • There were 104,977 searches on people of Bangladeshi descent - 47 for every 100 people
  • 779,136 searches were on people from White British backgrounds - just 21 in every 100
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Stop and search review 'important for public confidence'

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said:

The fact that just 9% of stop-and-searches lead to an arrest clearly demonstrates that the current system is not working.

Under the last Government, stop-and-search spiralled out of control, with hundreds of thousands of innocent people stopped and searched without any good reason.

If public confidence in the police is to be maintained, these sort of powers must be used in a far more targeted way and the pilot schemes already undertaken demonstrate this is possible without jeopardising public safety.

Today's statement is an important step towards ensuring the public, particularly people from ethnic minorities, can have confidence that they can walk the streets without fearing they will be subject to further unjustified use of stop-and-search powers.

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Consultation to ensure fair use of stop and search

Home Secretary Theresa May is set to announce a consultation on stop and search Credit: PA/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Theresa May, who is understood to have a particular interest in stop and search and its use, is set to announce a fresh consultation on the powers in the House of Commons to ensure they are being used fairly.

The move comes just a few weeks after the Government's equality watchdog said police forces are being fairer and more efficient in their use of stop-and-search powers.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that five forces, including the Metropolitan Police, had reduced their use of stop and search powers without compromising crime reduction.

In addition, Mrs May has asked Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to report on how the police use these powers and their report is due within a few weeks.

In 2010, the EHRC's Stop And Think report showed that at that time, nationally, black and Asian people were respectively six and two times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.

As a result of an 18-month action programme supervised by the Commission, all but one of five forces covered saw drops in their disproportionate use of stop and search against black and Asian people.

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Study: Black people six times as likely to be stopped

In 2010, the government's equality watchdog released a report on the use of stop and search powers in 42 policing areas over five years.

The report concluded that "racial stereotyping and discrimination are significant factors" in the varying rates at which people are stopped and searched.

  • Black people six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people
  • Asian people twice as likely to be stopped and searched than white people
  • Some of the highest racially disproportionate rates were seen in the West Midlands, Thames Valley, West Mercia and South Yorkshire

A follow-up trial with five police forces found that they were able to reduce their use of stop and search power by up to 50 percent while continuing to see a reduction in crime rates.