Black people seven times as likely to be searched during Section 60 orders by police force covering Aylesbury

The Home Office has increased the police’s abilities to authorise and use stop and search measures in the UK.

By James Lowson
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 3:55 pm

A section 60 order was recently issued in Aylesbury following a life-threatening stabbing near the town centre.

Priti Patel has now announced that police forces can issue orders for longer and extend search periods for the double the time.

And more junior officers now have the ability to authorise a Section 60 order.

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Section 60 orders give police officers the ability to stop and search people in chosen areas without any reasonable grounds of suspicion that a crime has been committed.

National World analysis shows that black people were seven times as likely to be searched under these conditions than white people.

Minorities are disproportionately targeted by Section 60 orders, National World’s analysis of Thames Valley Police and Office for National Statistics data shows.

The rate of Section 60 searches carried out by Thames Valley Police shows 22 white people per 100,000 have been stopped.

The rate increases to 53 for people who identify as Asian, 155 for people of mixed ethnicity and 158 for black people.

When looking at targeted searches including Section one searches, black people remain four times as likely to be searched than their white counterparts.

National World’s statistics tracks how often stop and searches were used in a 12-month period up to March 2021.

In this time period, out of all police forces in the UK, only two used Section 60 orders more than Thames Valley Police.

Nationally, the figures are even more disproportionate with National World discovering black people are 13 times as likely to be searched across the country.

During the 48 hours where Thames Valley Police most recently authorised a section 60 in Aylesbury, two people were arrested.

Thames Valley Police reports that illegal drugs and a bladed weapon were recovered as a result of unprompted searches.

Out of 1,021 searches that were carried out by Thames Valley Police officers on 263 occasions criminal items were found.

When an Asian person was searched an item was found 32.2% of the time, something was confiscated 30.4% of the time when a black person was searched, 25.9% of searches involving people of a mixed ethnicity resulted in a discovery, and 24.5% of the time something was found when a white person was checked.

Human rights charity Liberty said Ms Patel’s decision to lift them will “worsen existing divisions between police and communities at a time when public trust and confidence in police is at a serious low.”

Sam Grant, head of policy and campaigns for the charity, continued: “We all want to feel safe in our communities, but the police have consistently shown that they do not use stop and search fairly or proportionately, so giving them even more power isn’t how we get there.

“Not only are Section 60 stops not effective at detecting and reducing knife crime, they disproportionately affect people of colour, particularly black people.

“Instead of handing the police ever greater powers, the Government should repeal suspicion-less stop and search powers like Section 60."

When presented with National World’s findings, a Thames Valley Police spokesman said: “Stop and search is a crucial preventative tool which allows officers to allay or confirm suspicions about individuals without having to utilise the power of arrest, which is important for ensuring that people are not arrested unnecessarily.

“The use of stop and search is guided by intelligence which helps to target those individuals suspected of committing crime, and is generally used with the aim of reducing the devastating impact of knife crime or in connection with illegal drugs.

“This applies to stop and search powers used under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which was authorised on twenty-six occasions in Thames Valley Police between January 2021 and January 2022.

“National studies have shown that there is disproportionality in the application of stop and search upon different ethnic groups.

“Thames Valley Police performs comparatively strongly to other forces, showing lower rates of disproportionality in its use of the power, but the force still reflects national trends, and is committed to ensuring that stop and search is used appropriately, cognisant of the impact it can have on communities if used incorrectly.

“To achieve this, the force has developed a Legitimacy Board, chaired by the Assistant Chief Constable for Local Policing, which holds commanders and teams to account for patterns of disparity and disproportionality in the use of stop and search and other areas of service provision.

“In addition, the force is applying new technologies to ensure that stop and search is recorded more accurately, and improved analytics to equip the force to identify disproportionality and address it more effectively.

“As well as local initiatives, the force is engaged with national improvement programmes including HMICFRS, who reappraised Thames Valley Police’s use of police powers in 2021/2, and has a number of processes in place to scrutinise that its use is appropriate.

“This scrutiny is achieved through a strategic Stop and Search Independent Advisory Group (SSIAG), individual local police area IAGs, and a Professional and Ethical Standards panel, including any cases submitted via the force’s Professional Standards Department.

"Body-worn video of searches is made available for anonymised randomised scrutiny by the various panels.

"These panels help the force to identify whether the use of stop and search was appropriate, and whether it was conducted in a caring, respectful and professional manner.

“The scrutiny processes reflect the force’s commitment to improving the way that it operates, and it welcomes any individual or community-based feedback on its use of the stop and search power.”

The Home Office believes greater powers will help police prevent knife crime and tackle serious violence.

A spokesman told National World: “Every knife taken off our streets is a potential life saved. Stop and search removed almost 16,000 dangerous weapons from our streets and resulted in almost 80,000 arrests last year.

“Crime statistics show increasing proactive policing, like stop and search, is helping the police find more knives and drugs, and arrest more criminals.”