Police stop and search powers to be boosted under Johnson crackdown

(Anthony Devlin/PA) (PA Archive)
5:31am, Tue 27 Jul 2021
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Stop and search powers for police are set to be permanently enhanced under Boris Johnson’s new strategy to tackle crime.

The Prime Minister will use his first day after leaving self-isolation following a positive coronavirus contact to detail his new Beating Crime Plan, much of which was trailed in the media over the weekend.

It will include a permanent relaxing of conditions on the use of Section 60 stop and search powers, under which officers can search someone without reasonable grounds in an area where serious violence is expected.

Mr Johnson’s announcement comes as the chairman of the Police Federation prepares to deliver a letter to Downing Street setting out officers’ anger over a pay freeze and objections to how the plan was announced.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also dismissed as a “ridiculous gimmick” a pledge by the Prime Minister to provide victims of crime with a named officer to call about their case.

Mr Johnson’s reforms for England and Wales will also see the extension of a pilot announced earlier this year which involves burglars and thieves being made to wear GPS tags on release from prison.

The strategy will also trial the use of alcohol tags – which detect alcohol in the sweat of the wearer – on prison leavers in Wales in a bid to reduce alcohol-related crime.

Sir Keir Starmer (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)

The plans will also permanently reverse limits imposed on police stop and search by Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May during her time as home secretary.

Section 60 powers give officers the right to search people in a defined area during a specific time period when they expect serious violence, and officers can look for weapons before they can be used, or those used in a recent attack.

The permanent change follows a nationwide pilot which reduced the level of authorisation needed to impose a Section 60 order, and lowered the degree of certainty required.

But on the day that further details of the Prime Minister’s crime-blitz strategy are revealed, chairman of the Police Federation John Apter will take a letter to Number 10 setting out officers’ anger.

John Apter (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Archive)

The Police Federation of England and Wales, representing more than 130,000 officers from the rank of constable to chief inspector, passed a motion of no confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel last week in a row over pay.

Officers who earn more than £24,000 are subject to a pay freeze this year, compared with NHS staff who will receive 3%, and firefighters and local government workers who will get 1.5%.

The strategy will also include plans for league tables for forces’ 101 and 999 call-answering times, a national online platform to allow the public to contact police, and efforts against county lines drug gangs to be intensified.

Ms Patel, writing in the Daily Mail, added unpaid work cleaning streets and open spaces will be reintroduced as “the public want to see justice done and criminals pay the price for their crimes.”

The plans also include a £17 million package to persuade young people who go to an emergency department with a stab wound or have contact with police to stay away from violence.

But Iryna Pona, policy manager at the Children’s Society charity, said intervention should take place long before young people end up in hospital.

Targeted help for young people and families and universal services like youth clubs have been victims of devastating government funding cuts everywhere over the last decade

She added: “Prevention is better than cure. We need to be helping young people well before they end up being rushed into A&E fighting for their lives.

“We want to see a long-term plan for investment in early help for children at the first signs that they are vulnerable to being groomed.

“Short-term limited resources do not go far enough in providing the solutions needed across the country.

“Targeted help for young people and families and universal services like youth clubs have been victims of devastating government funding cuts everywhere over the last decade.

“Greater investment in early intervention needs to be a key part of a coherent national strategy setting out the Government’s approach to tackling child criminal exploitation.”

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