The Home Office Stop and Search consultation: July 2013 The response from the Race Equality Coalition (CORE) and local partners The Home Office Consultation on Stop and Search In July and August, members of the Race Equality Coalition (CORE) wrote to the Home Secretary and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) about the Home Office’s consultation on Stop and Search launched in July 2013. We shared the concerns expressed, on 2nd July 2013, by MPs in their House of Commons’ debate on this consultation; there was cross party support for meaningful engagement with those most affected by Stop and Search. CORE was concerned that the Home Office’s consultation would not reach enough of those that are disproportionately affected by stop and search (e.g. young black men). We approached both the Home Office and the EHRC about these concerns and were pleased to receive funding to run 10 local engagement events during September. The aim of these local events was to reach out to those disproprortionately affected by stop and search and feed into the consultation process. Our local partners This work was co-ordinated by Black Training & Enterprise Group (BTEG), Coalition for Racial Justice UK, Equanomics UK and the Runnymede Trust; and we worked with a number of local partners. This partnership was key to the delivery of this programme. BTEG, CRJ UK, Equanomics UK and Runnymede and our Stop and Search delivery partners Black South West Network (CORE) Croydon BME Forum (CORE) Just West Yorkshire (CORE) African Caribbean Citizens Forum Hackney Council for Voluntary Service
Community Foundation Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Groups Race Equality First Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London South Riverside Community Development Centre
Ethnic Minorities Training & Education Project
The results of this local engagement work Our work demonstrates that local community organisations are well placed to reach out to those disproportionately affected by stop and search. We reached over 440 people, predominantly young people under the age of 25 in less than 1 month. Many of these young people had been unaware of the consultation and it is unlikely that would have responded to the consultation if we had not engaged with them. CORE members and our local partners produced 10 local research reports and 10 local submissions to the Home Office and we also produced an overall submission. The full range of submissions will be available on BTEG’s website shortly. Key findings - general The majority of participants had serious concerns about: a) the nature and quality of Stop and Search encounters; b) damage to community relations; and c) police non-compliance with the law, rules and guidelines on Stop and Search.
Some felt that stop and search powers should be repealed; most felt that they needed to be reformed. There was concern that police action should be both fair and rational and must be perceived to be so by individuals and wider society. A comment summed up feelings expressed by other participants: “if Stop and Search were floated as a business idea or in the Dragon’s Den, it would be laughed out of court given its lack of focus and poor outcomes in terms of arrest rates, crime reduction and adverse community relations.” Furthermore, participants argued that Stop and Search should come under close examination due to its lack of focus and its poor outcomes in terms of arrest rates, crime reduction and adverse community relations. Key findings: Nature and quality of encounters and damaging community relations a. The operation of Stop and Search described by many participants is at variance with individuals’ legal rights including their human rights and rights under relevant equality provisions. b. Many participants referred to the police and their implementation of Stop and Search as abusive, aggressive, intimidatory, racist and unfair. c. The exercise of Stop and Search powers can be intrusive, embarrassing, humiliating, intimidating and frightening for the individual concerned and represent an invasion of liberty and privacy. d. Significant levels of frustration are being built up in those disproportionately impacted upon by Stop and Search. e. Stop and Search powers can and have been abused. f. Police officers do not have unfettered rights to stop and search (participants were well aware that the police have legal powers but this is not the same as an unconditional right to stop and search). g. Stop and Search can, and is having, have damaging effects on communities and community relations. h. Stop and Search powers require a secure base of community support. Key findings: Police non-compliance with the law, rules and guidelines a. Stop and Search is not working at present and has not been working fairly, effectively or properly for many years. b. Many participants highlighted that they did not feel that the police abided by provisions requiring them to have ‘reasonable grounds’ and participants said that too often police officers seemed to justify their actions. c. Participants raised concerns about police behaviour and attitudes when those stopped did know or seek to raise their legal rights; too often participants reported that this simply led police officers to be more aggressive or hostile. d. It is essential that police forces are clear how they are planning to use Stop and Search to tackle crime. CORE members agree with StopWatch that Stop and Search might actually be detrimental to wider police work. Community members that feel victimised to profiled by Stop and Search are less likely to cooperate with law enforcement officials and thus, less likely to aid crime prevention.
Our recommendations CORE members and our local partners broadly supported the recommendations made by StopWatch and wish to see how they, and others, can be actively involved in developing, implementing and monitoring associated action plans. Further information For additional information about submission by CORE please contact Mark Blake at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7832 5807 or Florence Nosegbe at email@example.com or on 020 7377 9222. Further information on StopWatch can be found on their website: http://www.stop-watch.org