Police could be given new stop and search powers aimed at targeting knife crime, under a new proposal announced today by the Home Office.
The introduction of Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs) would apply to individuals in England and Wales previously convicted of a knife crime offence, allowing police to stop and search them regardless of whether there were reasonable grounds to do so.
The orders and the duration of each order would be decided by a court. If someone is caught under an SVRO and convicted, they would receive a prison sentence, as per the two strikes legislation introduced by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.
Currently, there are two pieces of legislation that allow police to stop and search individuals. Section 1 allows police to stop individuals if there is reasonable grounds for suspicion, while Section 20 gives police stop and search powers over certain geographic locations.
Crime and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said on the government’s website: “Knife crime has a devastating effect on young lives and our neighbourhoods. Our ambition is for these new powers to transform the way stop and search is used by targeting the small number of the most serious and persistent criminals.”
Since the start of pandemic, many controversial incidents of stop and search have come to light. In July, a teenager who was attacked by a far-right demonstrator in London was subsequently searched by a police officer after asking for help. In the same month, a Black man returning from a Channel 4 interview about police racism was stopped by officers. They smashed his car window and handcuffed him under the incorrect suspicion that he was concealing drugs.
Katrina Ffrench, chief executive of StopWatch, a campaign group for accountable policing, said: “It is deeply concerning that these proposals have been made. We know – from research using the Home Office's own figures and police data – that stop and search is ineffective in tackling knife crime.
“Removing the hard-won protections of reasonable suspicion from any search is only going to lead to less effective policing and greater harassment of those already over-policed and under-protected – young Black men,” she continued. “These orders will further entrench these patterns and fuel the distrust between impacted communities and the police. Increasing stop and search powers is not the solution.”
The Home Office is currently holding a consultation on the proposal.