Boris Johnson defends stop-and-search as 'important tool' in combating violent crime

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Boris Johnson has defended the use of police stop-and-search powers, after claims they are disproportionately used against black people.

During a series of exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson insisted he understood the “strong and legitimate” feelings of people in the UK over the “appalling” death in the US of George Floyd.

But following clashes at some Black Lives Matter demonstrations, he insisted it was essential to keep the streets safe and to “back our police”.

He also refused to condemn the response of US President Donald Trump to the death of Mr Floyd while a white policeman knelt on his neck, praising the US as a “bastion of peace and freedom”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons Credit: House of Commons/PA Wire

Mr Johnson highlighted his record as mayor of London, saying he was “very proud” of initiatives which had been introduced to promote black, Asian and minority ethnic officers in the Metropolitan Police.

However he was challenged by acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who said black people were 47 times more likely than white people to be stopped by police using stop and search powers.

“On too many occasions, stop and search seems to mean being black is enough to be suspected of being a criminal,” he said.

Mr Johnson acknowledged the powers should be used “sensitively and in accordance with the law” but said they were an important tool in combating violent crime.

“What has been happening in London with knife crime has been completely unacceptable,” he said.

“I do believe that stop and search, amongst many other things, can be a very important utensil in fighting knife crime.“It does work. It worked for us when I was running London and it must work now. It is not the whole answer but it is part of the mix.”