‘Cautious welcome’ for change to stop and search powers for South Yorkshire Police

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has offered a ‘cautious welcome’ to changes to stop and search powers used by South Yorkshire Police.

Monday, 1st April 2019, 12:41 pm
Updated Monday, 1st April 2019, 12:44 pm
Dr Alan Billings

Ministers have relaxed the rules around the use of stop and search powers in a bid to tackle knife crime.

CRIME: Two fatal stabbings in Sheffield remain unsolved Home Secretary Sajid Javid has lifted two conditions introduced in stop and search guidance rolled out in 2014 when Theresa May was home secretary.

Dr Alan Billings

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Previously, officers above chief superintendent rank were only able to authorise the use of stop and search powers.

Officers had to reasonably believe that serious violence would take place.

Under the changes announced this weekend, which initially apply to seven forces, including South Yorkshire, inspectors can now authorise the use of stop and search.

The degree of certainty required has been lowered, so that the authorising officer must reasonably believe serious violence ‘may’ occur.

Mr Javid said: "Stop and search is a hugely effective power when it comes to disrupting crime, taking weapons of our streets and keeping us safe.

"That's why we are making it simpler for police in areas particularly affected by serious violence to use Section 60 and increasing the number of officers who can authorise the power.

The Section 60 changes will initially apply in London, West Midlands, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Wales and Greater Manchester for up to a year.

Forces are expected to engage with communities on its use, and nobody should be stopped on the basis of their race or ethnicity, the Home Office said.

Dr Alan Billings South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: "I give this a cautious welcome. Stop and search only works if the community supports it and it brings results.

“At the moment communities do support police action because it is seen as proportionate and fair and is resulting in convictions for carrying drugs or weapons.

“I have met a number of women in particular who have lost children or family members to knife crime and who want stop and search as a deterrent.

“I will ask my Ethics Panel to continue to monitor the use of stop and search to ensure that community support is maintained.

“But enforcement is only one aspect of South Yorkshire's strategy to defeat violent crime.

“Equally important is getting upstream of crime and preventing young people being drawn into gangs and cultures of violence in the first place. This is longer term work with partners and something South Yorkshire is doing very successfully.

“Above all we need consistency in policy. It is only a few years since the Home Office was requiring police forces to drastically reduce stop and search, which might now be seen as a mistake.”