Friday, May 7, 2010

UK Report Reveals Significant Disparity in Exercuse of Stop and Search Powers in the UK

In March 2010, the United Kingdom’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, published "Stop and Think: A critical review of the use of stop and search powers in England and Wales."

The evidence in ‘Stop and Think’ "suggests that some British police forces are exercising their powers not on the basis of intelligence or reasonable suspicion but on stereotypical assumptions." The majority of stops and searches in England and Wales are conducted under multiple legislation, including the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE). The disproportionate use of said powers has led the Commission to conclude that the police use of their stop and searches "may be unlawful, discriminatory and ultimately, detrimental to relations within and between communities."

The report’s most significant findings are that Blacks are at least six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than Whites. Asians are approximately two times more likely to be stopped and searched than Whites. The Commission rejected racial differences in neighbourhoods or offending to explain the disparity as unreasonable and unsupported by the evidence. It warned about taking "enforcement action" if forces did not take measures to address the problem.

It is important to note that the Commission did not consider stop and search results conducted under s.44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The Commission has committed to reviewing those results separately. In January 2010, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that searches undertaken under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 were unlawful as they were not based on ‘reasonable suspicion’.

Posted by Nicole Myers (Windsor Law I)

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