Home Office consulting on strengthened stop and search powers

The Government is proposing giving police officers powers to search people they suspect of carrying a corrosive substance in public without good reason.  

Sep 10, 2018
By Joe Shine
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton: 'Officers should be confident to use stop and search'

It is also considering extending stop and search powers to cover the misuse of drones and laser pointers.   

As part of the Home Office proposals published on Sunday (September 9), scientists at the Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory have been commissioned to develop a portable kit so that officers can test suspected corrosive substances on the street.   

It follows the introduction earlier this year of the Offensive Weapons Bill, which will create a new offence of possessing a corrosive substance in a public place.  

Currently, officers can only stop and search someone when they suspect that person is in possession of a corrosive substance and is intent on causing injury. 

National lead for corrosive attacks Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton said she supports the new proposals that enable officers to search anyone suspected of carrying acid “without good reason”.   

“The use of acid to commit acts of violence is particularly abhorrent – perpetrators aim to leave their victims with horrific and life-changing injuries,” she added.  

“Tackling the scourge of acid attacks requires a coordinated approach across a number of different organisations and sectors. I support proposals to extend stop and search powers, so that they cover individuals suspected of carrying a corrosive substance in public without good reason.  

“Stop and search is ultimately a safeguarding power – we use it to prevent crime, identify those who intend to cause harm and disrupt serious and organised crime networks.    

“Officers should be confident to use stop and search – proportionately and respectfully – because it’s an important investigative tool.” 

There has been a spate of acid attacks in the UK, with 400 offences recorded in the six months to April last year – an average of two a day.   

The Offensive Weapons Bill is currently at the committee stage and is due to be heard be on Tuesday (September 11).   

Policing and Fire Minister Nick Hurd said: “Acid attacks are appalling acts of violence that devastate lives and can have fatal consequences.   

“A bottle of acid can be as lethal as a knife or a firearm, and these new powers will enable police officers to prevent these despicable thugs from carrying out their terrible crimes.   

“The Home Secretary has been clear that stop and search is a vital and effective policing tool when used correctly. We will always seek to give police the powers they need to crack down on violent crime and bring perpetrators to justice.”  

The proposals to give police officers greater powers to stop and search people over the misuse of drones and laser pointers follows an increase in number of incidents of drones coming close to manned aircraft – up from 29 in 2015 to 93 in 2017, according to Home Office figures.  

Since 2010, there have been more than 1,000 incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft.  

In June, shining a laser at a vehicle and dazzling or distracting the person in control became a specific offence, with offenders facing up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both as part of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill. 

Critical national infrastructure, sensitive sites, defence establishments, large-scale events and crowded public places also face a potential threat of criminal or hostile drone activity, while the use of drones to smuggle contraband into prisons is increasing.  

Director of the UK Civil Aviation Authority Mark Swan said: “Illegally-used drones and lasers are a very real safety risk to aircraft, particularly during critical phases of flight, such as take-off and landing.   

“Laws are now in place to protect aircraft from both drones and laser pointers, and we support efforts by the police to enforce these laws.” 

“The Home Secretary has been clear that stop and search is a vital and effective policing tool when used correctly. We will always seek to give police the powers they need to crack down on violent crime and bring perpetrators to justice.”

The number of incidents of drones coming close to manned aircraft has risen from 29 in 2015 to 93 in 2017, according to the Home Office

And since 2010, there has been more than 1,000 incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft.

As a result, the Home Office has proposed greater powers to allow officers to stop and search people over the misuse of drones and laser pointers.

In June, shining a laser at a vehicle and dazzling or distracting the person in control became a specific offence, meaning offenders could face up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both as part of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill.

Director of the UK Civil Aviation Authority Mark Swan said: “Illegally-used drones and lasers are a very real safety risk to aircraft, particularly during critical phases of flight, such as take-off and landing.

“Laws are now in place to protect aircraft from both drones and laser pointers, and we support efforts by the police to enforce these laws.”

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