Campaign groups rally against Home Office stop and search data delay

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It has been said frequently over recent years, but bears repeating once more: it has been a poor week for leadership in the Home Office. The Observer reported that annual Stop and search figures which were due to be released have not been made available. They are subject to a three-week delay while in the meantime, the policing bill, and the borders bill, make their way through parliament.

The justification

The study suggests that efforts to overcome “data quality issues” are to blame for the postponement, but this has been met with scepticism, with questions now being raised as to whether this is the true cause of the delay. According to Katrina Ffrench, creator of Unjust-UK and OBV alumna, “Without transparency there cannot be proper accountability or scrutiny. Ultimately, police legitimacy will continue to be undermined if the government persists with enacting the bill and ignoring its own data.”

Human rights and Windrush lawyer Jacquline Mckenzie tweeted:

“UK going to extraordinary lengths to hide discrimination and racism. Best let’s examine the evidence, have the discussion and agree on some solutions.”.

The police monitoring coalition NETPOL also commented on the delay stating, “The Home Office refuses to release annual stop-and-search data likely to show another leap in the racial profiling of black communities and remind everyone of how racist British policing is, just as officers received even more sweeping powers.”

Figures over the 2019/20 period saw use of stop and search hit a six-year high.

Legal Action

The lack of transparency has been reiterated by Habib Kadiri, research and policy manager at StopWatch, as well as Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty.

Both organisations have filed legal action against the Home Office in response to plans outlined by Home Secretary Priti Patel in July. The Home Office intends to permanently lift constraints on the use of ‘Section 60’ stop and search powers following a 2019 pilot which relaxed the voluntary conditions put in place by the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme (BUSSS). Then Home Secretary Theresa May, implemented BUSSS in 2014 to address concerns about the racial disparity in police use of stop and search. 

‘Section 60’ stop and search powers allow police to stop and search people without suspicion, however campaign groups have long criticised this strategy as ineffective. A recent super-complaint from the Criminal Justice Alliance found that 99 percent of section 60 searches do not turn up any weapons.

Crucially, campaign groups have also criticised the government's failure to publish evidence justifying its decision.

Mayowa Ayodele

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