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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:36 am on 23rd May 2018.

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Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 10:36 am, 23rd May 2018

I am saying that it should always be clearly targeted. The geographic breakdowns give a better picture. Dr Huq talked about sociology and statistics, and it is important to look below the national figure at the local figures. Often, they show where we can put things right, where there is a disparity, or where the figures are just a reflection of the crime trends, as my hon. Friend Philip Davies talked about.

Before this debate, I asked for some regional statistics. In 2016, in Merseyside, if someone was Asian, they were less likely to be stopped than if they were white, and someone was 2.8 times more likely to be stopped if they were black. In west Yorkshire, they were 1.5 times more likely to be stopped than if they were white. In Lincolnshire, someone was less likely to be stopped if they were Asian than if they were white, but if they were black, they were 4.8 times more likely to be stopped.

Those regional or county statistics are really useful, because they help to answer other questions. I had assumed that the figure of black people being 8 times more likely to be stopped was predominantly driven by London, but in the Metropolitan police area, someone who was black was only 3.8 times more likely to be stopped. If they were Asian, it was about the same as if they were white.

When I look at those figures, I ask myself about community relationships, about whether we have a tactical rather than a strategic approach, and about the relationship between PCCs and the chief constables. By looking at the information at force level, we will get a more informed picture on the circular debate about whether it is because people commit more crimes, whether we as the state are doing something wrong, whether communities are not supporting the police, or whether there is a particular problem with organised crime groups in certain areas.

The 1981 riots are important to consider, and they came up in yesterday’s debate on serious violent crime. One of the biggest differences between crime in 1981 and today is the scale of organised crime and the ability for it to be organised through mobile telephones and encryption, as I said yesterday. We should recognise that organised crime is colour-blind. It does not care whether someone is black or white; it will shoot or stab them, and sell them drugs, no matter what. I suspect that some of the least racist people in this country are the drug dealers—they are delighted to sell anyone their poison.

We must remember that one of the differences between 1981 and now is that the modus operandi of organised crime. It targets communities using county lines, meaning that some of our communities are more vulnerable to being exploited than they were before. I do not know the exact answer to that. Some of it will be an increase in stop-and-search where there is a particular problem with organised crime groups, because that may be the only tool that the local police have at that moment in time. Some organised crime groups have become much quicker at moving into a community before the community spots them, and then delivering their drugs, moving people around and moving couriers from outside an area into it so that the local community does not recognise them.

Also, communities are much less settled now than they were in 1981, which is a challenge. How do our frontline police deal with what is sometimes a very dangerous threat but short-term threat, whereby people move in, carry out their crime and then move on again? Addressing that will be a challenge. Stop-and-search will play a strong role in meeting that challenge, but more than anything, intelligence will play a role in stopping these criminals and hopefully preventing them from getting ahead of us.

We rolled out the voluntary Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, introducing greater transparency and public scrutiny, and the measures in that scheme have all been delivered. Every force in England and Wales signed up to the scheme, putting in place all of its components, which enable the public and the police to better understand how stop- and-search is used and how it can be improved upon. PACE code A, which governs how stop-and-search is carried out, was changed to make it clear that “reasonable grounds” cannot be based on race or stereotypical images, and the College of Policing developed and rolled out national standards and training, including mandatory unconscious bias awareness. We expect to see further improvements following on from those changes.

In answer to the hon. Member for Bradford West, the Home Office—in collaboration with the College of Policing through its national policing curriculum, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and community interest group representatives—is reviewing the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, to take into account the three years of operational experience and feedback from practitioners, organisations and the public. A refreshed version of the scheme is currently being developed, with a view to a nationwide launch by the end of the year. The refreshed version will place further emphasis on community involvement and the need for forces to monitor and explain their use of stop-and-search.

HMIC has observed improvements across the 43 forces in a number of areas. For example, in 2012 the inspectorate found that 27% of stop-and-search forms that it examined did not show that there had been sufficient grounds for a lawful search. By 2017, that figure had dropped to 6%.

As for race and ethnicity, in 2016-17 substantially fewer black individuals were stopped and searched than before; the figure was down by 74% from 2010-11, when there were more than 110 searches for every thousand black people. The number of Asian individuals being stopped and searched has also fallen by 79% since 2010-11. By anyone’s yardstick, those figures represent a significant change and show that things are going in the right direction.

Nevertheless, the figures still show that if someone is black, they are more than eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than someone who is white. As I said earlier, I think that to explore those statistics further and perhaps understand what is behind them, we should look more at our force levels.