Today I am announcing new stop and search powers for police to tackle acid attacks and the misuse of drones.
These new powers are being announced in response to the recent public consultation on extending stop and search to address the criminal misuse of unmanned aircraft (drones), laser pointers and corrosive substances.
Stop and search is an important tool for the police to prevent, detect and investigate offences, including some of the most violent and devastating, thereby helping the police to protect and safeguard the public. The use of stop and search, when proportionate, lawful, and intelligence-led, is an integral part of the policing response in tackling serious violence, and in preventing and deterring people from carrying weapons. However, it is also important that when stop and search is used it is done effectively, professionally, and, as far as possible, with community consent.
The Offensive Weapons Bill, which is currently before Parliament, will introduce the offence of possession of a corrosive substance in a public place and provisions to extend stop and search powers to cover this offence. The use of corrosive substances as a weapon can cause significant harm and injury to individuals, families and communities and we are determined to take strong action in order to prevent these horrendous attacks.
Following the incident at Gatwick Airport, the Government has been working closely with the police to examine whether they have the necessary powers to respond should the misuse of a drone cause widespread disruption to the operation of an aerodrome. The police have been clear that in certain circumstances, a power to stop and search a person in relation to offences concerning flying a drone within the restriction zone of a licensed aerodrome would enhance their ability to respond should a similar situation arise in the future. We consider such a power to be proportionate and beneficial in enabling the police to tackle incidents causing widespread disruption to the operation of aerodromes and the Government will continue to work with the police to define the detailed scope of this power.
In addition, the Government is working closely with the police to examine whether they have the appropriate powers to respond effectively to other offences, including around prisons, that might be committed using a drone. If this work reveals further meaningful operational gaps, the Government will take further legislative action.
The Government will also keep under review the adequacy of the existing powers to tackle offences related to the misuse of laser pointers.
I am grateful to the 223 individuals and organisations that responded to the consultation, including members of the public, the police service and other interested parties.