Norman Baker: “The Lib Dems want to restore the public’s trust in the police”

Norman BakerToday’s London Evening Standard front page splashes on the news that the Lib Dems intend to tighten the laws on stop and search, and require some police officers to wear body cameras when they stop someone:

Armed police, riot squads and officers carrying out some stop-and-search in London would have to wear body cameras under Liberal Democrat proposals unveiled today.

The law and order reform, which will be in the party’s 2015 general election manifesto, will also require police to get a judge’s approval to carry out controversial Section 60 stop-and-searches. The existing law lets a senior officer authorise the stopping and searching of individuals in a certain area without suspicion of wrongdoing if he or she believes violence is about to erupt or that people are carrying weapons without good reason.

But civil liberty campaigners say Section 60, part of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, has been used in a discriminatory manner, with black and Asian individuals significantly more likely to be stopped and searched.

“Far too many innocent people are subjected to stop-and-search, which is often based on crude stereotyping of minorities,” Lib-Dem Home Office minister Norman Baker told the Standard. “Stop-and-search has led to tension, and it’s something that cannot be ignored.”

The Lib Dem news release gives further details:

Liberal Democrat Home Office Minister, Norman Baker, is bringing forward the plans in the party’s ‘pre-manifesto’ which will be published in September.

We will introduce rules making the wearing of body cameras by officers mandatory for:

  • Section 60 stop and search areas
  • Officers armed with firearms
  • Members of Territorial Support Groups
  • The policy also includes plans to:

  • Tighten up the rules on stop and search
  • Eradicate the target-driven incentives which can cause the powers to be overused by police
  • Improve safeguards through tighter guidance
  • Ensure that authorisation for area-based Stop and Search is subject to judicial approval
  • And here’s Norman’s accompanying quote:

    “The Liberal Democrats want to transform community relations and restore the public’s trust in the police. Far too many innocent people are subjected to stop and search, which is often based on crude stereotyping of minorities. Stop and search has led to tension, and it’s something that cannot be ignored. Liberal Democrats in Government have been taking the lead, and believe more must be done in the next parliament.”

    It also contains some interesting background to the proposed policy:

    Body Cameras

    Body-worn cameras can play an important role in helping to bring suspects to justice. Trials have started across the UK for police body cameras. Trials already show that issuing police officers with body-worn video cameras can bolster evidence taken at scenes of crime and bring about swifter justice by encouraging suspects to make early admissions of crimes.

    They also help build confidence in the Police, and give the public the reassurance that both the Police and public’s actions will be recorded. Often cases of alleged malpractice involving firearms or police in riot gear attract lengthy and costly investigations.

    By placing body-worn cameras on officers involved, this evidence will improve our ability to hold the police and public to account for their actions. Even at this early stage in the trials the signs are promising, and the College of Policing has already published new guidance that enables the use of body cameras for response officers dealing with domestic abuse cases.

    Stop and search

    Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows a police officer to stop and search a person without suspicion. Section 60 stop and searches can take place in an area which has been authorised by a senior police officer on the basis of their reasonable belief that violence has or is about to occur, and where it is expedient to prevent it or search people for a weapon if one was involved in the incident.

    Areas in which stops can be carried out under Section 60 are currently authorised by senior police officers. To restrict the use of that power so that it better reflects what was originally intended, Liberal Democrats will require applications for the designation of Section 60 areas to be authorised by a judge on a time limited basis, subject to a pilot in certain areas.

    Liberal Democrats support the upcoming College of Policing review into the national training of stop and search. That review will lead to higher professional standards for officers, and the production of a “best use of stop and search” scheme. It will also bring about the online publication of stop and search data.

    We would go further by tightening up the PACE Codes of Practice that deal with stop and search. We will ensure that ‘reasonable suspicion’ is better defined so that there is a specific focus on known criminals or, in identification cases, those matching accurate first descriptions (taken on a standardised form unlike at present) and not racial groups or age groups.

    Notes to Editors

    Ministry of Justice statistics show that nationally in 2009-2010 black people were stopped 23.5 times more frequently than white people, and Asian people 4.5 times more frequently. In 2009-2010 only 0.32% of section 60 searches – one in 300 – resulted in an individual being arrested for possession of an offensive weapon.

    The Guardian/LSE study of the August 2011 riots noted that the “focus of much resentment was police use of stop and search”.

    In November 2013, Equality and Human Rights Commission research found that:

  • Overall, black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, but in some areas this was as high as 29 times more likely;
  • Those from Asian or other ethnic minority groups were twice as likely to be stopped as white people;
  • In London, black people were nearly 7 times more likely to be stopped, mixed race people 2.6 times more likely and Asians and others twice as likely.
  • In London in 2011-2012 the police conducted 468,403 stop and searches under PACE Section 1 across the area covered by Metropolitan Police. This was an increase of 6% from the previous year.

    There were 39,277 stop and searches under Section 60 Criminal Justice & Public Order Act, a power which doesn’t require individual reasonable suspicion.

    Some progress has been made. In January 2012, Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe announced new limits on the issuing of Section 60 stop and search orders, while Liberal Democrats in Government have repealed Section 44 stop and search powers, replacing them with a much more limited power. Since this change was made, stop and search incidents by the Met are down by 30%, although the EHRC statistics show there is still more to do.

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    • Little Jackie Paper 11th Aug '14 - 8:56pm

      Body cameras raise some interesting questions here about the advance of technology. They are, in effect, CCTV – make of that from a liberty/privacy perspective what you will. But what’s the next step – google glasses that can be fitted with facial recognition to show a police officer who has a criminal record?

      When did everyone become so starry-eyed about technology.

    • Richard Dean 11th Aug '14 - 9:59pm

      I think it’s a good idea to have legislation that enables police to wear CCTV when they believe it can help, but a bad idea to require them to do so. Enabling is good, but requiring just provides more hurdles to fall over.

      Police seem generally to be aware of the need to have communities on their side, and of the need to achieve a proper balance in these matters, a balance between increasing tension amongst some parts of a community due to some action, and reducing tension in other parts of the same community through the feeling of increased safety those parts may have as a result of those actions.

      I would give the Equalities Commission more credibility if, instead of quoting statistics that they themselves have made a judgement on, they actually asked the communities for their views.

    • Agnostic on the proposals given the lack of detail, but I do hope some consideration is given to police filming individuals who are not arrested and what happens to this footage.

      It seems odd for a party that once opposed CCTV and that, I would have thought, had objections to police filming innocent people routinely (as they do in cars and vans, at least in my neighbourhood) to suddenly fully embrace a massive expansion of this tactic.

      The liberal case for increased surveillance would make an interesting read on this site.

    • Perhaps we should just weld a camera into everyone’s forehead at birth and have done with it.

    • Richard Wingfield 12th Aug '14 - 10:52am

      I think there is a little overreaction here in relation to the proposals regarding video cameras. The requirement would not apply to all police officers at all times but only (i) officers armed with firearms, (ii) members of the Territorial Support Groups – a specialised unit in London, and (iii) in Section 60 stop and search areas. The first two groups are very small and the third would become a lot smaller once greater restrictions were placed on the use of Section 60 (by requiring judicial authorisation). Even collectively, video cameras would only be worn by a tiny proportion of police officers at any one time and only in certain situations where confrontation was particularly likely.

      A huge number of cases end up in court because the defendant disputes what the police are alleging and the only people present are the defendant and one or more police officers. This is particularly true where the offence charged is one of resisting arrest or assaulting a PC in the execution of his duties and so the victim is the police officer. Having footage of the arrest/assault itself would lead to fewer trials as it would be immediately apparent what had happened and so who was telling the truth. For that reason alone, I would support these proposals.

      I make no comment on the policy-making process, although I suspect that most (if not all) of the proposals would be supported by conference.

    • Are you not a little behind with all this? Some forces have already been using them since 2006.

    • When we talk about communities, people ignore the criminals within them. Many people are intimidated by the criminals into criticising the Police. The reality is that the Police are a fleeting presence , the local criminals may be the neighbour living next door. There has been cases of criminals taking over the flats of those with mental problems and using them for drug dealing. TV series such as Law and Order UK and the film “Harry Brown”show some of the realities of inner city life where parents allow their children t be involved in criminal activity. Some gangs use primary school age children for carrying drugs and guns.

      Communities need to turn on criminals and say this sort of activity is no longer accepted. A major problem is that there are very few physically tough men who are not intimidated by the criminals: they have all left.. Consequently, single mothers with children become easily intimidated. How many mother would risk their children by informing on criminals?

      The reality is that some parts of inner city Britain are closer to the “Rookeries ” of 18/19C Britain than the leafy suburbs.

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