Stop and search: Home Office figures show police 'abused powers' in England and Wales last year

·2-min read

The use of stop and search went up by 24% in the year ending March 2021, according to the latest Home Office figures.

The data for England and Wales showed there were 695,000 searches carried out by the police, 11% of which resulted in an arrest.

The data also showed black people were seven times more likely to be searched.

The majority of those being stopped by police were young men aged between 15 and 34.

Nearly 16,000 weapons were seized during the searches.

There was also a significant drop (49%) in the number of Section 60 stop and searches, where officers can search anyone in an area including those who aren't suspicious.

There are concerns the police are not using the powers effectively or fairly.

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said: "Today's statistics prove once again that police have overused and abused stop and search powers, making life harder and more dangerous for certain communities, and particularly black men."

However, a Home Office spokesperson said there are "extensive safeguards in place" to help stop people being searched due to their race.

They said: "Tragically, data shows that young black men are disproportionately more likely to be the victims of knife crime.

"No one should be targeted for stop and search because of their race and there are extensive safeguards in place to prevent this."

Other figures published by the Home Office shows the number of people referred to Prevent, the counter-terror scheme, fell by 22% for the same period.

In the year ending March 2021, a total of 4,915 people were referred, the lowest figures for five years.

A quarter of referrals were due to concerns about far-right extremism, with 22% relating to Islamist radicalisation.

Of those referred, 688 people were offered intensive support to help de-radicalise them.

The programme has faced scrutiny after it was revealed Ali Harbi Ali, the man accused of the murder of David Amess MP, had been referred to Prevent.

It prompted the government to announce an independent review of the scheme.

Critics argue the programme creates mistrust among many communities.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Prevent remains an important tool to help divert people away from harm.

"It is vitally important that if anyone has a concern about someone they think may be being radicalised, that they act early and seek help."

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Amanda Pearson, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for stop and search, also acknowledged they have not "always got that balance right" with stop and search.

She told Sky News: "We know that the use of stop and search can have a significant impact on individuals and communities.

"It is our responsibility as leaders to ensure that we balance tackling crime with building trust and confidence in our communities, and we haven't always got that balance right."

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