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She announced the easing of conditions on the use of the tactics under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act in a letter to police on Monday, May 16.
In a statement, Patel said: “The devastating impact of knife crime on families who have lost their loved one is unbearable.
“No one should have to endure the pain and suffering of the victims of these appalling crimes and we have a responsibility to them to do everything in our power to prevent future tragedies.”
Stop and search use has increased by 85% since 2019, with 50,000 knives and weapons seized, and 150,000 arrests made, according to the Home Office.
But what is section 60 stop and search and what are the restrictions Priti Patel has lifted?
What is Stop and Search?
Stop and Search laws allow police officers to stop and search someone if they suspect that they are carrying drugs, a weapon, stolen property, or something that could be used to commit a crime.
The police officer must have a genuine suspicion that a person would be carrying one of these in order to carry out a stop and search.
Police have to explain why they are carrying out a stop and search and in almost all cases, the person being searched will be offered a record of the stop and search.
The officer should also tell the person their name and the station where they’re based, or their warrant ID number in certain circumstances.
What is Section 60?
Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows a police officer to stop and search a person without suspicion and without reasonable grounds.
However, Section 60 can only happen in a defined area at a specific time when police officers believe violence will take place or has already taken place in a specific area.
The police officers must also believe that carrying out a stop and search will help prevent crime or find a weapon used in a recent incident.
What has Priti Patel changed?
Priti Patel has lifted the limitations that then-home secretary Theresa May placed on the stop and search orders in 2014.
Lifting the restrictions means that more police officers can authorise the orders. An officer of or above the rank of an inspector can now give Section 60 authorisation.
The orders can now also be in place for longer, with the maximum period (without extension) increasing from 15 hours to 24 hours.
A superintendent or above can now also increase the maximum extension period from 39 hours to 48 hours.
Police can also now use these stop and search powers when police believe violence “may” occur rather than “will” occur.
Additionally, police do not need to publicly announce that Section 60 authorisations are in place.
The Home Office said in a statement: “This will give officers full operational flexibility and the confidence they need to use the tool, helping rid the streets of dangerous weapons and save lives.”
Why is stop and search controversial?
Patel’s removal of restrictions has come under fire, as stop and search orders have been criticised for disproportionately affecting black, Asian, and other minority ethnic people.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) reported in April “that people from Black or Black British background people were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than those from a White ethnic background.”
The report also said that: “people from an Asian or Asian British background, or mixed ethnic background, were approximately two and half times more likely to be stopped and searched than those from a white ethnic background.”