Government to consult on police stop and search powers
The government is to launch a public consultation on how the police should use stop-and-search powers in England and Wales, Home Secretary Theresa May has announced.
Mrs May said stop-and-search is an important power and that police will maintain the right to use it but she told MPs there is widespread public concern about the way the power has been used.
About 1.2 million stops were carried out in 2011-12 but only 9% led to an arrest, according to government figures. Mrs May said the power should only be used when there is "reasonable suspicion" that a crime has been committed.
Labour welcomed the public consultation, which will last for six weeks, as it responded to the home secretary's statement on 2 July 2013.
The aims of the changes are to use stop-and-search only when necessary, increase the number of arrests resulting from stops, make police recording practices more efficient across the country, and to improve community engagement.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the changes should not jeopardise the recording of whether or not ethnic minorities are being disproportionately targeted.
There was widespread support for Mrs May's announcement.
Keith Vaz, Labour MP and Home Affairs Committee chairman, said black or Asian people are 25 times more likely to be stopped and searched.
He also urged Mrs May to look at diversity within the police, saying forces have to be representative of society if the public are to have confidence in them.
Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert said he believed stop and search had "far too often been misused".
He argued the police should make it clear when requesting information from people they stop, such as name and address, whether this is "a requirement or it is purely voluntary".
Mrs May said she would look at the law on face coverings - such as balaclavas - after questioning from Tory Philip Hollobone, a special constable for the British Transport Police (BTP) who has conducted stop and searches.