Alex Beresford reports on one of the UK’s most controversial police tactics - stop and search - as nearly 700,000 were carried out between April 2020 and March 2021 in England and Wales.
Supporters say it is an effective police tactic to get knives and drugs off our streets however, whilst it has succeeded in removing 50,000 weapons from our streets since 2019, data shows it’s disproportionately used against children and adults from ethnic minority communities. In May, restrictions were removed meaning police can authorise section 60 - the law that allows stop and searches to take place - when police anticipate that serious violence ‘may’ occur rather than ‘will’ occur and they can enforce these powers for longer.
In light of some shocking cases recently involving searches of children and young people, set against the backdrop of disturbing crime rates, Alex Beresford - whose own cousin Nathaniel was fatally stabbed in 2019 - looks at when, why and how this tactic is being used.
"Unfortunately, young people have been involved in serious violent crimes. I believe the police need to just do their job, irrespective of the age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity of that person." - Festus Akinbusoye, Bedfordshire Police And Crime Commissioner
It was March 2022 a news story broke that a 15 year old girl - known as Child Q - had been strip searched in a school two years previously, by the Met Police- without an appropriate adult present. Children’s Commissioner Rachel De Souza decided to use her powers to get hold of Met Police figures to find out more.
"Between 2018 and 2020, 650 strip searches of children between the ages of ten and 17… 95% of the children strip searched were boys, but over 50% were black boys." - Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England
Black children make up 4% of the population… but account for 18% of stops where ethnicity is recorded. In adulthood, young black men are 7 times more likely to be stopped than white males and Asian men are two and a half times more likely.
Alex speaks to the parent of a young Black boy that was stopped and searched in June, as well as another pair of young men from ethnic minorities who share their stop and search experiences from the last two years.
"I know that many people in the population support the use of stop and search, but most people are never subject to a stop or never subject to a search. [It’s] people who are from those communities and that's why you see the lower levels of trust and confidence in the police." - Abimbola Johnson, Chair, Independent Scrutiny and Oversight BoardHalf of the stops that were carried out last year in England and Wales were by the Metropolitan Police - Alex goes to see 300 new recruits at a stop and search training day. He meets Young Advisors from an organisation called Fight 4 Change that have come to talk to the recruits about their experiences. It is an example of the work that is being done across London and the UK to try and bridge the gap between young people and the police.In September 2021, in Manchester, a 16 year old boy called Rhamero West was chased and fatally stabbed by three young men. In May 2022 three young men were convicted of his murder and received prison sentences ranging from 17 - 24 years. We hear how this has affected his mum Kelly and cousin Deanne, and how they have found a unique way to channel their grief; they’re raising money to install bleed cabinets around the city which contain bandages, chest wraps and other life saving equipment. They hope it will save lives and make perpetrators think about what they're doing and hopefully put their knives down.The hope is that increasing the use of stop and search will have an impact on those who continue to ignore the pleas of families who have lost loved ones to crime. But, questions will continue to be asked about how the police use this often intrusive tactic and exactly who they are using it on.