Stand up to Racism oppose the increased use of Section 60 stop and search powers
Vivek Lehal, Haringey Stand Up To Racism
- Credit: PA
The home secretary has written to police forces relaxing the restrictions on the use of Section 60 stop and search powers contained in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Section 60 allows the police to conduct searches “without reasonable grounds”.
So, Section 60 allows any uniformed constable to stop any pedestrian, or any vehicle driver and any passenger(s) and search them and/or their property for offensive weapons or dangerous instruments, regardless of whether there are any grounds for suspecting possession of said articles. Failure to stop when required to do so under Section 60 powers could be punishable by up to a month’s imprisonment.
These powers have always been controversial and widely regarded as a replacement of the discredited “sus” laws (Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824) that were abolished in 1981. As the Human Rights organisation Liberty has reported black people are 18 times more likely to be stopped under Section 60 than white people and that Section 60 had no real effect on knife crime with only 1 per cent of searches resulted in a weapon being found.
Even Theresa May (author of the “hostile environment for refugees”) as home secretary felt it necessary to restrict the use of Section 60 searches. Unfortunately, the present home secretary has now, for a second time, removed safeguards on the use of these searches. Communities like Haringey, and many others, have long felt the discriminatory nature of Section 60 searches with young black men at the sharp end of this racism.
Stand up to Racism strongly opposes the increased use of Section 60 searches and will support those subjected to unwarranted and unnecessary stop and searches. Instead of handing the police ever greater powers, the government should repeal suspicion-less stop and search powers like Section 60.
We need community-led interventions through investment in health, education, housing and social welfare – and for those in power to work with communities to develop strategies for keeping all of us safe which have human rights at their heart.
Vivek Lehal is secretary of Haringey Stand up to Racism.