'Unlawful' use of stop and search

More than a quarter of stop and search records examined did not include sufficient grounds to justify the lawful use of the power, police watchdog Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found in its first inspection of the power.

Majority of police 'do not understand stop and search'

The report says forces have not developed an understanding into how to use stop and search to prevent crime. Credit: Reuters

An inspection by the police watchdog into how forces in England and Wales use stop and search powers has found that the vast majority of them - 30 out of the 43 surveyed - had not developed an understanding of how to use the powers so that they are effective in preventing and detecting crime.

Only seven forces actually recorded whether or not the item searched was actually found, and half of forces did nothing to understand the impact the searches had on communities.

Read: Black people six times more likely to be stopped under stop and search powers, study finds

The report, produced by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), comes as the Home Secretary announced a review of the controversial powers.

Only 9% of stop and searches lead to arrest

Officers spend an average of 300,000 hours conducting stop and searches, but on average only about 9% of the one million incidents recorded result in an arrest, a review has found.

Police are able to conduct stop and searches under 20 different powers, but the most common laws used are:

  • The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE)
  • The Misuse of Drugs Act
  • The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act

The PACE act code of practice sets the standards intended to protect the public from the incorrect and unlawful use of these intrusive powers.

Under PACE forces are required to make arrangements for stop and searches to be scrutinised by the public, however the police watchdog found that less than half of all police forces in England and Wales comply with this.

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Officers 'not adhering to stop and search guidance'

Police officers are not adhering to the legal guidance on the power to stop and search, with the result that more than a quarter of searches conducted are "unlawful" according to a review by police watchdog Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

HM Inspector of Constabulary Stephen Otter said:

Officers are not adhering to the guidance on too many occasions. It has slipped down the chief constables' agenda since the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report.

Read: Stop and search power used 'unlawfully' in 275 of cases

Stop and search power used 'unlawfully' in 27% of cases

Police have been over using their 'stop and search' power, the police watchdog revealed.
Police have been over using their 'stop and search' power, the police watchdog revealed. Credit: Press Association

The first inspection into the use of stop and search powers has found that police are using the power unlawfully in more than a quarter of instances.

After renewed concern about the way police use stop and search on the back of the 2011 riots, Home Secretary Theresa May ordered Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to conduct its first ever inspection of the use of the powers in all 43 forces in England and Wales.

Read: Theresa May launches police stop and search review

The watchdog found that around 27% of 8,783 stop and search records examined did not include sufficient grounds to justify the use of the power.