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Crime and Security Bill

Part of Bill Presented — Pedicabs Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:25 pm on 18th January 2010.

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Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow 6:25 pm, 18th January 2010

I apologise for having been absent for part of the debate, but I had to attend a statutory instrument Committee upstairs.

I listened with a great deal of interest to what David Davis said about DNA, about which I shall make a few comments later. I wish to talk first about another part of the Bill, which in some ways relates to the problems that he mentioned of the effect on communities. That is the part that deals with stop and search.

The Bill proposes changes to how stop and search is recorded. I absolutely understand the reasoning-we do not want excessive bureaucracy in the police, and we want them to spend as much time as they possibly can on the street dealing with crime, rather than filling in cumbersome forms or records. However, the use of stop and search can be controversial and it is important that we get it absolutely right.

Stop and search can take several different forms, and there are three main powers to exercise it. There is section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which is the commonest form, but there is also section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These last two do not require a police officer to have reasonable suspicion about an individual before they conduct a stop and search. Section 60 of the 1994 Act, in particular, is often ignored when there is discussion of stop and search. There was a recently a prominent court case about section 44 of the 2000 Act, and there has been a great deal of publicity about how it has been used in relation to recent demonstrations in central London. However, when we consider the regulations governing stop and search during the passage of this Bill, we need to examine what happens under section 60.

The proposal in the Bill is to reduce the recording requirements under PACE. There will not be any need to record whether anything was found during the stop and search, whether any injury or damage were caused to the person stopped, or their name. Monitoring will continue in relation to ethnicity, but not age. We need to consider what the consequences of that might be. If someone wished to make a complaint that a stop and search was unlawful, or wished to show in their defence in a case that they had been stopped and searched two or three times in the same day-that sometimes happens-they would find it very difficult without names and other details being recorded.

We need to think much more carefully about how we monitor the use of stop and search. There is obviously an issue with section 44 of the 2000 Act following the court case. It must be reviewed and there is likely to be an appeal-there is of course no guarantee that that will succeed-but it is absolutely certain that all the reservations about the use of section 44 given in the judgment apply equally well to section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

I was in the House when that Bill was debated back in 1994, as were one or two others in the Chamber today. In the debate on section 60, we were told that the power would be used only in exceptional circumstances, when a superintendent considered that there was the possibility of serious violence in their area. However, the power is being used absolutely routinely in certain police forces, as a method of doing stop and search without having to have suspicion regarding the individuals concerned. In the Met, in 2000-01, there were 2,800 recorded uses of section 60; in 2002-03, the figure was up to 8,600; and in 2003-04, it was 4,400; but by 2007-08, it had risen to 17,000. The latest figures show that in just one year, in one London borough-Newham-there were 25,500 searches using section 60. That happens to be the borough that uses section 60 most heavily, but in my borough, Waltham Forest, there were 6,000 in one year, which is more than there were in the whole of the Met just a few years ago.

The excuse for those figures is Operation Blunt 2. That was when the big increase occurred. However, the usage of section 60 is simply not being monitored properly. In fact, there is very little relationship between knife crime and the number of searches under section 60. Like the DNA provisions, the use of section 60 is a source of resentment among young men-it is generally young men-who are stopped again and again. It is about time we looked again at how section 60 is used and monitored, and we should be looking to amend how it operates. The Bill gives us an opportunity to do that.

I welcome the fact that the law on DNA retention is being looked at and reformed, but I am afraid I cannot welcome how it is being done. There are some very basic issues. The fact that three quarters of young black men between the ages of 16 and 34 are on that database has been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden and others. There is evidence that there is a higher rate of arrest among young black men, but often a lower rate of conviction than among the corresponding white cohort.

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