Home Secretary Theresa May is considering reforms to the way that police use stop and search powers, and is prepared to tell police to curb its use in order to prevent damage to community relationships. The government has recently undertaken consultation on section 60, following the Mark Duggan case and because of the fact that there are disproportionately high numbers of searches being conducted on minorities, with few arrests. Government action on Section 60 use is expected in the coming weeks and while some fear that the power to stop and search will be removed completely, this is unlikely.
Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 enables police officers to stop and search members of the public even if they are not suspected of a specific crime. Such searches can only be conducted in areas that have been designated as being at high risk of violence, and the use of Section 60 has dramatically increased since section 44 of the Terrorism Act was deemed unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights.
In 2011, the government decreed that section 60 stops and their use would be examined, because of the impact that they have on communities and because it was suspected that these stops played a contributing factor in the riots of that year. The police also said that they would use them less often.
The death of Mark Duggan was cited as being one of the possible causes of the 2011 riots, but an inquest verdict found that he was lawfully killed, despite the fact that the same inquest also found that he did not have a gun when the police shot him. The inquest verdict has caused further tensions in minority communities, and the Duggan family have said that they will continue the fight in court.
Stop and search powers are viewed as being integral to police work, but the numbers show that these powers are being used unfairly and indiscriminately to target minority communities, with relationships between police and these communities being further harmed by the Mark Duggan inquest trial. While the government looks to bring in changes regarding the use of section 60, Home Secretary Theresa May will ask police to curb their use of the now controversial powers.