Police in talks to scrap ‘reasonable grounds’ condition for stop and search

Police chiefs want to trigger an expansion of stop and search by lowering the level of suspicion an officer needs against a suspect to use the power, the Guardian has learned.

They want to scrap the requirement that “reasonable grounds” are needed before a person can be subjected to a search, amid mounting concern over knife attacks.

Senior officers have held talks with advisers to the home secretary, , within the last fortnight to discuss the issue. It would fuel the debate about police discrimination against minority ethnic communities, civil liberties and the role stop and search has to play in tackling violent crime.

The plans were confirmed by Adrian Hanstock, the deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police and national lead on stop and search for the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

The proposals, which apply to England and Wales, would also make it more likely that those caught with a knife could be dealt with by an education programme, the so-called public health approach, rather than ending up before the courts.

Hanstock told the Guardian: “There are a lot of calls for officers to do more stop and search. But the current individual threshold that officers have to meet is very tight and precise. So is there any appetite to reduce that threshold where [an] officer has a genuine fear that the person is at risk, or there is a safeguarding threat, or is a risk to others?

“If that officer does not have sufficient grounds or X-ray vision to see they are carrying a weapon, and they are concerned they may have something to cause harm, that should trigger a search.

“They will still have to record what has concerned them.”

Hanstock accepted the plans were controversial. It comes amid rising concerns about knife killings, especially in London, and calls from some to use stop and search more.

 

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