One of my guiding principles is equality under the law. For us all to live peaceably with each other we must feel that everyone is treated fairly by the police and judicial system. This is why it was good to see the Home Secretary has announced reforms to stop and search.
In Wycombe, there are a large number of people from minority backgrounds. Official figures show that if you are from a non-white background you are up to six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than if you are white.
The Government intends to revise the Police and Criminal Evidence Act Code of Practice to make clear what constitutes ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion’ – the legal basis upon which police officers carry out the vast majority of stops. The revised code will emphasise that, where officers are not using their powers properly, they will be subject to formal performance or disciplinary proceedings.
In addition to these changes, in order to improve transparency and accountability, they will add stop and search data to the Government’s hugely successful and popular crime maps at www.police.uk.
These proposals amount to a comprehensive package of reform. The Government is clear: if the numbers do not come down, if stop and search does not become more targeted, if those stop-to-arrest ratios do not improve considerably, they will return with primary legislation to make these things happen.
No one wants to hamper the arrest of genuine criminals but I believe these reforms will go a long way toward instilling confidence in the rule of law. They should be welcomed.