Home Office note labels own published arrest data ‘dodgy’

Police officers are allowed to stop and search without reasonable suspicion in certain areas
Police officers are allowed to stop and search without reasonable suspicion in certain areas - Victoria Jones/PA Wire

The Home Office published statistics on stop and search with a footnote describing some of the arrest data are “dodgy”.

The note appeared on a government spreadsheet detailing the number of people arrested and the reasons for their arrest after being subject to stop and search measures by police.

It said: “[The] ‘reason for arrest’ data is dodgy, so maybe we shouldn’t publish it.”

The Home Office declined to elaborate on why the reason for arrest figures were considered “dodgy”.

The spreadsheet shows the number of people stopped and searched in England and Wales under Section 60, which allows police to carry out searches within an entire designated area without having reasonable suspicion.

The official data show that in the year ending Mar 31, 2023 there had been 4,280 searches under Section 60, with 43 people found to be carrying offensive weapons. However, the data show that 52 arrests were made for carrying offensive weapons – 9 more than people logged to be carrying offensive weapons.

The note questioning whether the data should be published was released on a spreadsheet on Sept 26. First seen by BBC Verify after publication, it was removed shortly after the broadcaster made contact.

The arrests were broken down into those “for offensive weapons” and those “for other reasons”. The note describing the reason for the arrest data as “dodgy” was attached to the offensive weapons column.

The figures come after five Metropolitan Police officers have denied gross misconduct at a disciplinary hearing over the stop and search of the Team GB athlete Bianca Williams.

In July 2020, the British sprinter and her partner, fellow athlete Richard dos Santos, were stopped in their car, handcuffed, searched for weapons and drugs, and separated from their three-month-old son. Officers found nothing and no arrests were made. Ms Williams and Mr dos Santos publicly accused the Met of racism after they were searched under Section 1 powers.

Under Section 1 powers, police can lawfully carry out stop and searches on individuals or vehicles if they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect the person is carrying: illegal drugs, a weapon, stolen property or something that could be used to commit a crime, such as a crowbar.

According to government data, black people were four times more likely to be searched than white people, and mixed race people were searched twice as often as white people and Asian people at a rate 1.4 times higher. People from other ethnic groups were searched at a rate 1.3 higher than white people.

A Home Office spokesman said that Suella Braverman backs Section 60 to help keep people safe.

They said: “The Home Secretary has given her full support to frontline officers to confidently use their powers to keep the streets safe and protect the public.

“Every knife taken off our streets is a potential life saved, and since 2019, we have removed 120,000 knives and offensive weapons from our streets through stop and search, surrender initiatives and other targeted police action.”