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'I will change law if police don't rein in stop and search'

'EXCESSIVE': People from a black or from a minority ethnic background are up to seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than those who are white

THE HOME Secretary Theresa May will make changes to the law if police do not rein in their "excessive and inappropriate" use of stop and search.

She said if police continue to misuse the powers – which are disproportionately targeted against ethnic minorities – legislation will be introduced to tie their hands.

May made the announcement when delivering this year’s Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust Criminal Justice Lecture, in memory of the murdered teenager.

Stephen was stabbed to death at the age of 18 in an unprovoked racist attack at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993.

In 2013, a Scotland Yard officer was disciplined for discriminating against Stephen’s younger brother, Stuart, who was followed and stopped while driving in his car. Stuart – who said he had been targeted simply because of the colour of his skin - complained that he had been stopped or searched by officers on 25 occasions since the age of 17.

Before starting her speech, May paid tribute to their parents Doreen Lawrence and Neville Lawrence "and the many others who - over so many years - have fought so hard for Stephen - never giving up, but finding the spirit to keep on going even in the most difficult times. And doing so with immense dignity".

During her speech, May revealed that during her time as Home Secretary, she has "heard accounts exposing the excessive and poorly targeted use of stop and search".

"Stop and search is an important police tool in fighting crime - particularly in combating gangs, knife crime and drug offences. But when this power is misapplied, and innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is an enormous waste of police time. It is bad for public trust and confidence in the police and it is unfair, particularly to young, black men."

She also added that that there is evidence that "if you are black or from a minority ethnic background that you are up to seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than if you are white, and police data which shows that only about ten per cent of stops result in an arrest."

However, she has claimed that since she initiated a "radical programme of police reform", the number of stop ans searches has fallen.

As part of the reform, the new voluntary Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme was launched where the age, ethnicity and outcome of every person searched must be recorded and published. The public now have the right to apply to accompany police officers on patrol so that they can see how stop and search is being used.

And a stop and search complaints 'community trigger' is being introduced, to ensure that where a particular force receives a significant number of complaints about stop and search, they will have to explain how and why they are using their powers.

OVERHAUL: Theresa May

"The number of stops and searches has fallen by over a quarter since 2010. But we must continue efforts to make sure stops are intelligence-led, fair and effective," said May.

"It is my hope, expectation and objective that these steps will further reduce the number of stops and searches across England and Wales, as the use of these sensitive powers becomes properly targeted, based on reasonable grounds and accountable to citizens and communities."

She continued: "But let me be absolutely clear: if stops and searches do not continue to fall, if the use of these powers does not become more targeted, and stop-to-arrests ratios do not improve, then a Conservative Government will not hesitate to bring in primary legislation to make it happen."

May's speech also addressed deaths of those with mental health issues in police custody and police corruption.

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