UK

Amber Rudd Backs Use Of Controversial Stop And Search Powers To Tackle Acid Attacks

The move has divided opinion among campaigners.

09/08/2017 10:47 BST
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Amber Rudd has called for stop and search powers to be used to tackle acid attacks 

Amber Rudd has reignited debate over the use of stop and search powers after backing calls for officers to use them to “confront” a recent rise in acid attacks and knife crime. 

The controversial practice has been criticised in the past over claims of racial profiling, with official figures last year revealing that black people were more than six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. 

Under former Home Secretary Theresa May, use of the powers fell dramatically in England and Wales from more than a million to fewer than 400,000 in 2015/16, the Press Association reported

However, while rejecting a return to less targeted stop and search checks - which she said “damaged the relationship between the public and the police” - Rudd gave her backing to officers who use the tactic “appropriately”. 

She also offered her support to police using the checks to deal with knife crime and other offences. 

Writing in The Times, Rudd said: “This includes using stop and search to confront the use of acid as an appalling weapon of violence.

“It is a vital tool to keep the public safe, and officers who use the power correctly should have the full support of the public and their commanding officers. 

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The Home Secretary says she supports officers who use the checks 'appropriately'  

“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.”

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick echoed Rudd’s comments, writing in the paper that stop and search was “an extremely important power when properly used”. 

“Our job as police is to protect people, prevent crime and bring offenders to justice,” she added. 

Dick said accusations of police racism for disproportionately focusing on young black men had meant some officers had lost confidence in using the powers, fearing that if they were complained about they would not be supported by management and it may “inhibit their work in other ways”.

However, she said that there were “very low” numbers of complaints and they were generally resolved quickly and the vast majority are found “in favour of the officer”.

The call to use utilise the powers comes after figures revealed last month that knife crime nationwide had jumped by a fifth, up to 34,703 incidents and the highest level for seven years. Knife-point robberies increased as did sexual assaults carried out at knifepoint.  

Rudd indicated last month that acid attack convictions could soon carry life sentences to ensure those using noxious liquids as a weapon “feel the full force of the law”.

The proposal was part of a wider strategy designed to crack down on attacks following a spate of high-profile incidents, including several assaults in London.

But the Home Secretary’s stop and search announcement has divided opinion. 

Some campaigners said the news represented a “welcome change in tone” regarding stop and search while the Centre for Social Justice - a think tank founded by Tories Iain Duncan Smith and Tim Montgomerie - said the practice was “vital”. 

However, others said there were still serious concerns about racial profiling and stop and search: