Home Office forced into stop and search U-turn following legal action from Liberty, Stopwatch

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Liberty and Stopwatch UK have welcomed a U-turn from the Home Office to reverse proposals that would have permanently removed constraints around the use of Section 60 (S.60) safeguards in the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme (BUSSS).

It was reported last month that both organisations had filed legal action against the Home Office after protections governing the use of BUSSS were removed in July of this year. This comes nearly two years after a 2019 pilot in which the Home Office relaxed the requirements imposed by the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme (BUSSS) - this in effect made it easier for police to use suspicionless stop and search. Various campaign organisations have long argued that this sort of stop and search is 'ineffective' and racially discriminatory, a position that has been strengthened by the latest data revealed by the Home Office.

Ineffectiveness in terms of its impact on knife crime has also been widely emphasised: The College of Policing discovered that S.60 stop and search resulted in 1% of searches yielding weapons. This 1% of weapons undoubtedly matters, but many campaigners have advocated for more efficient and effective alternatives that do not result in a disproportionate number of young black men being harassed by the state, bearing the costs of discriminatory policing, and further aggrevating relations with the police.

Liberty have reiterated the need for community-led interventions, including investment in health, education, housing, and social welfare, in light of the latest figures as well as U-turn. Crucially, they argue that this must be linked to those in power working with communities to develop "strategies for keeping everyone safe."

Both Liberty and Stopwatch UK had led the way in warning against the impact of the move. Speaking to The Independent earlier this month, Lana Adamou, a lawyer at Liberty said: “Removing safeguards will see more young people of colour, including children, subjected to further coercion and control, and reveals the home secretary’s indifference to systemic and institutional police racism.”

The Home Office is said to have admitted in a letter provided to Liberty that their Equality impact assessment was 'inadequate,' and that the matter would be 'reconsidered' before any further changes concerning the use of safeguards were made.

Mayowa Ayodele

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