Knife crime: South Yorkshire Police given more stop and search powers

South Yorkshire Police are one of seven forces to be given more stop and search powers as part of efforts to tackle the knife crime crisis.

Sunday, 31st March 2019, 8:59 am
Updated Sunday, 31st March 2019, 9:08 am
Thousands more police officers can now authorise enhanced stop and search activity after ministers relaxed rules on the tactics as part of efforts to tackle the knife crime crisis. Photo by Katie Collins/PA Wire

The new powers came into force today which relax the rules on when an officer can search someone and allows lower ranked officers to do so. 

It was introduced by Home Secretary Sajid Javid who is making it simpler for police to use Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Thousands more police officers can now authorise enhanced stop and search activity after ministers relaxed rules on the tactics as part of efforts to tackle the knife crime crisis. Photo by Katie Collins/PA Wire

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This allows officers to stop and search anyone in a designated area for a limited time if serious violence is anticipated.

Once authorised, police can stop and search people or vehicles regardless of whether they have reasonable grounds for suspecting they will find offensive weapons or dangerous items.

Mr Javid said: "Stop and search is a hugely effective power when it comes to disrupting crime, taking weapons of our streets and keeping us safe.

"That's why we are making it simpler for police in areas particularly affected by serious violence to use Section 60 and increasing the number of officers who can authorise the power."

He has now lifted two conditions introduced in stop and search guidance rolled out in 2014 when Theresa May was home secretary.

The Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme, which all forces are signed up to, requires a section 60 order to be signed off above chief superintendent rank, and states the authorising officer must reasonably believe serious violence "will" take place.

Now, the degree of certainty required has been lowered, so that the authorising officer must reasonably believe serious violence "may" occur.

The rank at which section 60 an be approved was also lowered to inspector, this will result in at least 3,000 more officers being able to authorise the use of the powers, officials estimate.

Mrs May, who will host a summit on serious youth violence on Monday, said stop and search is an "important tool" in the fight against knife crime.

She added: "As a whole society, we also need to take a hard look at the root causes of these crimes so we can intervene earlier and stop young people from being drawn into violence in the first place."

In 2017/18, police in England and Wales carried out 2,501 stops and searches under section 60, up from 631 in the previous year.

Overall, police stop and search activity has plunged in recent years.

As home secretary, Mrs May introduced reforms to ensure more targeted use of the powers following criticism they unfairly focused on black and minority ethnic individuals.

Mr Javid has backed the tactics since his appointment last year.

He has already announced plans to widen the circumstances in which they can be deployed to combat acid attacks and misuse of drones.

As well as South Yorkshire, the Section 60 changes will initially apply in London, West Midlands, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, South Wales and Greater Manchester for up to a year.