Bianca Williams stop and search: Maida Vale ‘racial profiling’ to be investigated by police watchdog

Bianca Williams, right, with teammate Asha Philip at the 2018 European Athletics Championships. Pict

Bianca Williams, right, with teammate Asha Philip at the 2018 European Athletics Championships. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA - Credit: PA

Scotland Yard has voluntarily referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over the the alleged “racial profiling” of two elite sprinters during a stop and search incident in Maida Vale.

Bianca Williams, who won a commonwealth gold medal for Great Britain, and her partner Ricardo Da Costa were pulled over driving in Lanhill Road, W9 on Saturday.

Footage of the incident showing the couple pulled from their vehicle, Ms Williams told the Times it had been “awful to watch” and said it had been “racial profiling”.

Mr Da Costa is also a professional athlete, who competes for Portugal.

The couple were stopped at 1.25pm on July 4 by members of the Met’s Territorial Support Group who were in the area. The police claimed their “vehicle was being driven in a manner that raised suspicion” and had been on the wrong side of the road.

Ms Williams refuted this.

Dame Cressida Dick, Commisioner of the Met, has apologised to the Ms Williams and Mr Da Costa, for their “distress” and said officers had spoken with them.

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Speaking to MPs on Wednesday, Dame Cressida added she had set up an “oversight group” specifically to look at handcuffing practices.

Public criticism, from figures like local MP Karen Buck and mayor of London Sadiq Khan has led the Met to refer itself to police watchdog the IOPC.

Earlier, Ms Buck told the Wood&Vale: “Whilst stop and search is one amongst many tools to help us respond to serious crime – and there have been problems with gangs and serious youth violence in the area – concerns over the disproportionate use against black people are long-established.

“Any allegation of racial profiling must be taken very seriously as it is essential that policing has the trust of confidence of all our communities.”

Over the weekend, footage of the incident was shared by former Olympic 100m champion Linford Christie, who is the athletes’ coach.

Mr Christie accused the police of institutional racism.

After making the referral on Tuesday, a Scotland Yard spokesperson said: “We have now recorded this incident as a public complaint. The decision to refer to the IOPC has been taken due to the complaint being recorded and the significant public interest in this matter and we welcome independent scrutiny of the facts.”

The force said that two internal reviews had not found evidence of misconduct.