BAME Communities: Stop and Search — [Albert Owen in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 23rd May 2018.

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Photo of Naseem Shah Naseem Shah Labour, Bradford West 9:30 am, 23rd May 2018

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that, and I will address some of those issues. I am not sure that conviction rates support what he suggests, but I will look into that further.

Police and crime commissioners were elected to democratise policing, but few have prioritised issues facing ethnic minorities. The best stop-and-search schemes give the public opportunities to accompany officers out on patrol, but they place most of their emphasis on scrutiny of stop-and-search records and data at police consultation groups.

The University of Warwick recently conducted the most comprehensive study of how members of the public in five police force areas try to provide input into police practice. It showed that police-public consultative groups have become the main forum through which the police make themselves accountable to the public, although those groups lack representatives from ethnic minorities and young people, who are most affected by policing. It concluded that these groups have become talking shops and are viewed as merely rubber-stamp committees by frustrated members of the community who want to make a difference. That is because there is no obligation on police officers to amend their policies or practice in the light of recommendations from the public. Even more concerningly, some senior officers responsible for organising these groups are either misleading the public about their use of stop-and-search or withholding even the most basic information, which would allow communities to hold them adequately to account. If we are serious about empowering communities, we need to ensure that members of the public can make recommendations and receive a written response from their chief officers on what those officers will do with that feedback. Will the Minister make that a statutory requirement?

The importance of getting stop-and-search right is made clear by academic literature on procedural justice, which suggests that the way people are treated by the police has an impact on their trust and confidence in the police and, by extension, on their perception of the state’s legitimacy, which determines their willingness to co-operate with the police and obey the law. It is therefore no surprise that anti-police riots have been fuelled by experiences of stop-and-search. All of that makes it even more important that we get stop-and-search right, no matter how long it takes.

One type of encounter that tends to be ignored and that is shrouded in secrecy is stops under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, which are the most draconian of all police stops. The schedule provides powers to detain the travelling public for up to six hours, which could mean they miss their flights, without the right to compensation. They are separated from their family and friends to be questioned, searched and potentially strip-searched. They have their biometric data taken, irrespective of the outcome of the stop, and have data from their mobile phones and laptops downloaded without their knowledge or consent. This has a deeply negative psychological impact on British Muslims and on those mistaken for Muslims, such as Sikhs and men with beards. This power does not require there to be suspicion that individuals are involved in terrorism, so British Muslims are left wondering why they have been detained, other than by virtue of their faith.

Young Muslims have had the bizarre experience of being asked if they personally know where international terrorists such as Osama bin Laden are hiding. These law-abiding citizens are made to feel humiliated, distressed and fearful, as well as alien to the country they know and love. That has created a sense that British Muslims have become the new suspect community. What will the Government do to eliminate religious and racial profiling at ports?

There is more data and research on police stops than ever before. It shows a consensus that these powers are ineffective in anything other than highly individual scenarios and that they continue to impact negatively on innocent people’s lives. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels and assume that the job is done, simply because the overall numbers are down. I look forward to hearing from the Minister what the Government are doing to empower communities to hold their police to account, to deliver on promises of reform and to tackle the false notion that knife crime is linked to stop-and-search.

I will finish on this:

“nobody wins when stop-and-search is misapplied. It is a waste of police time. It is unfair, especially to young, black men. It is bad for public confidence in the police.”—[Official Report, 30 April 2014;
Vol. 579, c. 833.]

Those are the words of our current Prime Minister when she was the Home Secretary. This year marks 20 years since the Macpherson inquiry started, and last month was 25 years since the stabbing of Stephen Lawrence. The Macpherson report in 1999 noted on stop-and-search that there remained

“a clear core conclusion of racist stereotyping”.

In 2009, the Home Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, reported on progress since the Lawrence inquiry. It noted that minority ethnic people remain

“over-policed and under-protected within our criminal justice system.”

It may be easy, from a position of privilege, to view this as a fad, but for many in our black and minority ethnic communities, racial profiling and discriminatory policing are real. They are corrosive, and they are undermining trust in public institutions. If we have learned anything from the Macpherson report, it is this: institutional racism needs to be dismantled if we are to build a society based on values of procedural justice and public accountability.