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Theresa May wins battle with Number 10 over stop-and-search reform

30 April 2014

So Theresa May has won her battle with Number 10 on stop-and-search reform, sort of. She announced a number of changes this afternoon to the power for police – but they’re all voluntary. That the Home Secretary has managed to get any of these changes into a state where she can announce them is a victory – but the initial voluntary nature of the reforms was the compromise necessary to make this announcement happen. The changes are as follows:

  • The Police and Criminal Evidence Act Code of Practice A will clarify what constitutes the ‘reasonably grounds for suspicion’ on which the police carry out the vast majority of stop-and-searches. If officers do not use their powers properly, they will be disciplined.
  • May has written to all chief constables and police and crime commissioners to tell them they must adhere to the Code of Practice. If they do not, the government will legislate to make this a statutory requirement.
  • Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, will review the national training of stop-and-search. Marshall will develop ‘robust professional standards’ and the College will also carry out unconscious bias awareness training.
  • The Home Office and the College of Policing will launch a scheme on the best use of stop-and-search, which will record how well forces are interpreting the ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion’. This already has the backing of the Metropolitan Police.

May was congratulated by colleagues across the House for the changes – with just a few such as David TC Davies expressing concern from the backbenches about what they feared might be a watering down of an important tool for the police. Davies was probably echoing the concerns aired privately by the Prime Minister, who does believe that stop-and-search is an important power. And although Patrick Rock, who was another key opponent, leaving Downing Street may have changed the climate in Number 10 on this, it would have been the Prime Minister’s concerns about the reforms that would have held things up as much as anything else. Now he appears to have agreed to them – albeit in an initially voluntary form with the backstop threat of legislative action from the government. That the threat of legislation is there at all is still significant.

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But while Labour backbenchers were happy to acknowledge that this really was progress on an issue that upsets many of their constituents from ethnic minority communities in particular, Yvette Cooper’s response seemed strangely graceless. Labour only became animated by stop-and-search reform when reports started to emerge that Number 10 was holding it up, but Cooper was extremely disapproving, and dismissed the reforms as not going far enough. She seemed to have rather riled Diane Abbott with her tone, who later told the Commons:

‘The Home Secretary will be aware that concern about stop and search in urban communities goes all the way back to the 1980s, and the original Brixton riots. Given that successive governments failed to act, she gets some credit from some of us for having taken things as far as she has done, but there is no single issue that poisons relationships between urban communities and the police more than stop-and-search and we have all heard her say that unless the ratio between stops and arrests get better there will need to be legislation, she must be aware she will be held to that.’

May replied:

‘I have absolutely no doubt that the right honourable lady and others in this house will do just that.’

The point is that this is a victory for those who felt that stop-and-search was leaving some communities in despair. Charles Walker told the House of his horror at hearing from one man who had been stopped and searched 50 times in 5 years, and mused that if this had happened to his own children, he would despair too. What wasn’t discussed, but which is also a key element in May’s fight, is that this is an important step for the Conservatives in working on their relations with ethnic minority voters who have previously worried that the party does not speak for them or listen to their concerns.

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Show comments
  • jesseventura2

    Why are hard working Chinese,Japanese,Indian immigrants etc not being targeted for stop and search?
    How many Chinese,Japanese, Indians are drug dealing robbers and rapists?
    Why are blacks being targeted?
    Get out more take a look?

  • jesseventura2

    The fact is the numbers of blacks and Asians on our streets who have grown up in the third world carrying knives means they should be targeted no matter what the labour and lib dem luvvies think?
    If only all these third world immigrants were educated and nice?
    Why are our jails like other western countries filling with black and muslim inmate drug dealing robbers and rapists?

  • allymax bruce

    Both Theresa May, and Eyvette Cooper, knew this law had to be introduced; the fact police can now get as close to those they suspect, means an intelligence-led sweep has opened up in favour of the Nation-State, against those wanting to attack us. Theresa May won the day by being clever to find appeasement, and bold to stick to her guns, (no pun intended!)

  • you_kid

    Home Secretary wins battle in her own party (well, sort of) to apply laws that already exist shocker. We are baffled indeed by all this progress.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …you are baffled indeed. By everything.

  • In2minds

    It’s possible that 250,000 illegal stops were carried out last year. So if the police do implement the new code, bingo, crime is down!

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Mistress May, the Queen of Darkness, strikes again.

    The Cameroons are simply illiberal. They despise freedom and liberty. That is all.

  • MirthaTidville

    Another PC appeasement from May..There is a reason so many stop and searches are carried out in certain areas and its called crime and the figures back it up..however if you tie the other remaining hand of the Police, two things will happen..The ethnics will stop complaining to their MP`s and crime will rocket…no more no less

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Let it.

      The people who live there can be better mobilized to help deal with the problem, then.

    • telemachus

      Theresa May is on to a good thing here
      Sus laws have long Been de facto racialism
      Now there is a racialist party snapping at Tory heels it gives the Tories a moral dimension that the Tories have hitherto lacked

  • Mynydd

    This is all about central control from the Home Office. If Mrs May consider that chief constables and crime commissioners are not adhering to the Code of Practice then she should sack them.

  • itdoesntaddup

    It seems reasonable to encourage the police to secure some “buy-in” to more intensive stop and search in high crime areas. In essence, the idea would be to ask the locals whether they prefer a high crime, under-policed neighbourhood, or whether they would like to support the police in doing something about it. Decisions in favour of high crime night result in formal notices on lampposts – “Warning: you are entering a high crime area”, though the presence of CCTV is often a good guide.

    Outside high crime areas, reasonable suspicion ought to keep the number of stops low. They have in any case been greatly boosted by attempts to make the statistics look politically correct.

    • In2minds

      CCTV –
      “Warning: you are entering a high crime area”, though the presence of CCTV is often a good guide.

      There was CCTV in the Andrew Mitchell case, what to make of that!?! The fact is the police make it up as they go along and CCTV like stop and search is abused power.

      • itdoesntaddup

        The IRA did try to launch mortars into Downing Street at one point, and Airey Neave was blown up around the corner in Parliament itself. High profile places attract terrorism, (and tourism and pickpockets). Still, I prefer boots on the ground to CCTV that merely records events for posterity (sometimes – vide Tomlinson).

        • In2minds

          A Metropolitan Police report in 2008 found that only one crime was solved by each CCTV camera in London. Britain has 1% of the worlds population but 20% of the world’s CCTV cameras. The UK police and authorities are obsessed by CCTV, what a pity they cannot put more energy and honesty into recording crime statistics.

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