Amber Rudd defends police stop and search powers

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Police should use stop and search to "confront" an increase in acid attacks, the home secretary has said.

Writing in the Times, Amber Rudd said officers using the powers "appropriately" had her "full support".

Theresa May curbed the use of the controversial tactic when she was home secretary amid concerns black people were being unfairly targeted.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott warned against "a return to the bad old days of discriminatory stops".

Ms Rudd - who is under pressure to tackle a rise in acid attacks - said stop and search powers had been "badly used" in the past.

"I want to be crystal clear - we have given the police the powers they need and officers who use stop and search appropriately, with reasonable grounds and in a targeted and intelligence-led way, will always have my full support," she writes in The Times.

"This includes using stop and search to confront the use of acid as an appalling weapon of violence."

In July, the Home Office said "indicative figures" from 39 police forces across England and Wales suggested there were over 400 attacks with acid or other corrosive substances in the six months to April 2017.

Media caption,
Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick defends the force's record on stop and search

The commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, also writing in the Times, described stop and search as "an extremely important power when properly used" and highlighted its use to combat knife crime in the capital, as well as the carrying of acid or drugs.

She wrote: "I will support my officers in the if the number of stop and searches rises in the fight against knife crime and street violence."

She added: "Stopping and searching should never define our relationship to young people of any community in London.

"For most of those I've met in recent weeks, including in some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, fear of violence is the main concern."

The article followed an interview Ms Dick gave to the BBC's Asian Network, in which she rejected the "perception" that the police targeted people because of the colour of their skin.

For Labour, Ms Abbott said: "Labour supports evidence-based stop and search, not a return to the bad old days of discriminatory stops that focus on particular communities."

She added: "Police officers should be confident in doing their job, but the Tories have overseen a huge cut in police numbers. Simply granting police additional powers won't make up for that shortfall."

There were 387,448 uses of stop and search in England and Wales in 2015-16, down more than 150,000 on the previous year, following Theresa May's crackdown on the tactic.

Some 15% of stop and searches resulted in an arrest, compared with 10% at the time of the overhaul three years ago.

However, black people were still six times more likely to be stopped than white people.

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