Amendment 129

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 3 November 2021.

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Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:30, 3 November 2021

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Chakrabarti, for their support for these amendments. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, that the issue of drugs is very complex: it needs a complex approach and stop and search of this nature is not the way to go. When I suggested to the commissioner that we did not arrest people for cannabis in Lambeth, former MP Ann Widdecombe accused me of usurping the power of Parliament: she cannot accuse me of that now.

Turning to the response of the Minister, almost her whole argument around Amendment 129 was an argument against decriminalisation, yet this amendment does not call for the decriminalisation of personal possession of drugs. It is all about focusing the police on serious crime, rationing scarce police resources by focusing them on what is really important to communities and to the courts. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that he rarely saw anybody in front of him for possession, particularly of class B drugs, unless by chance—usually it is when the police find cannabis when they have arrested the person for something else. They are there for the substantive offence and they get charged for the cannabis as well, for example.

The noble Baroness talked about the harm caused by drugs. Why, then, are new psychoactive substances not controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act not an offence? Why is personal possession of psychoactive substances not illegal under the Psychoactive Substances Act, if drugs cause so much harm? Why is alcohol not illegal when we look at the harm that alcohol causes? But we are not talking here about decriminalisation; we are talking about getting the police to focus on what is important. As far as Section 60 is concerned, I support stop and search. I have said how important stop and search—properly focused, acting on community intelligence and focusing on those who are suspected of carrying and using knives—is, and how important Section 60 is.

The Minister talked about the figures between 2019 and 2020 and the number of weapons that stop and search removed. This is not an argument about removing the power of the police to stop and search; it is about focusing intelligence-led stop and search on taking knives off the street to be even more effective. The figures that the noble Baroness gave about the number of weapons taken off the street, I assume, are not weapons found by using Section 60. If Section 60 searches were only 3% of all searches, and only 1%—one in a hundred—of Section 60 searches find a weapon, then the figures that the noble Baroness quoted cannot possibly be about Section 60. Why is she using figures about stop and search generally when the amendment she was addressing is about Section 60? It is a blunt instrument.

The noble Baroness is right; it has to be an inspector who authorises a Section 60. Until a couple of years ago, it was a superintendent who had to authorise a Section 60. That is why there has been a 2,800% increase in the number of times Section 60 orders are issued, and that is why Section 60 is so ineffective, with only one in 100 searches resulting in a weapon, and why it is so damaging to police-community relations, which are essential to tackling serious violence.

The noble Baroness said no one should be stopped and searched based on their race. You are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched under Section 60 if you are black than if you are white. The two things do not add up. Of course nobody should be searched on the basis of their race, but the facts are that you are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are black than if you are white. That is why Section 60 is so damaging and so ineffective. That is why I brought this amendment but, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 129.

Amendment 129 withdrawn.