Stop and search controversy continues – the Round-up
22 March 2016
Brought to you by Hannah Lynes
In the news
According to research released by the Home Office, large increases in stop and search operations have no discernible effect on crime reduction. The official study examined crime rates across 10 London boroughs in the first year of Operation Blunt 2, which led to a surge in the number of searches from 34,154 in the year before to 123,335 in 2008/2009.
The findings are likely to lend support to the position of the Home Secretary, Theresa May who in 2014 introduced new measures to curtail reliance on the powers. She has previously been critical of claims by the Metropolitan Police that a rise in knife crime in recent months is linked to a drop in the use of stop and search, warning against a “knee-jerk reaction.”
Police powers to conduct the searches have proved highly controversial, with campaigners arguing that ethnic minority groups are disproportionately targeted. An analysis by the Independent found that between December 2014 and April 2015, black people were more likely to be stopped than white people in 36 out of 39 police forces.
However, a recent Supreme Court challenge to the power contained in section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 was unsuccessful. The Act permits a police officer to stop and search a person for offensive weapons, whether or not he has grounds for suspicion, when an authorisation from a senior police officer is in force.
The Court dismissed the claim that the power was not ‘in accordance with the law’ and in breach of article 8 ECHR, which requires the law to have sufficient safeguards against the risk that it will be used in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner. It held that safeguards, including the requirement to give reasons both for the authorisation and the stop and search, made it possible to judge whether the power had been exercised lawfully.
In other news:
The Guardian: An IPCC investigation has identified systemic and individual failings in the care given by Hampshire constabulary to Martine Brandon, a ‘very vulnerable’ woman who committed suicide in police custody. Detention officers carried out “unsatisfactory and inadequate” checks on Ms Brandon, which amounted to police misconduct
BBC: Cameras are to be allowed into Crown courts for the first time, under a pilot scheme proposed by the Ministry of Justice. The sentencing remarks of judges will be filmed, with the aim of bringing greater transparency into the criminal justice system. However, the filming of defendants, witnesses and victims will remain prohibited.
The High Court has put an end to the practice in magistrates’ courts of convicting a defendant twice for the same racially or religiously aggravated offence. James Henderson had received three convictions for racially aggravated harassment under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, and for three other offences relating to the same incidents under the Public Order Act 1986. Charges for the less serious underlying offence will no longer be included on a defendant’s record. Read the Guardian report on the judgment here.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has conducted a comprehensive review on progress towards greater equality and human rights protection in England. The report makes for bleak reading, highlighting how many disadvantaged groups are being left still further behind the rest of the population. Read about its findings on RightsInfo.
In the courts
The applicant was a British national committed to prison for civil contempt of court in family proceedings. The committal decision was later overturned by the Court of Appeal, which found that the County Court had violated article 6 ECHR by allowing the committal hearing to proceed despite the applicant having no legal representation.
The ECtHR rejected the claim that the violation of article 6 (right to a fair trial) had rendered his detention unlawful under article 5 (right to liberty). It could not be said that the violation of article 6 amounted to a flagrant denial of justice.
However, the Court found that the domestic courts had failed to provide him with a remedy in the form of financial compensation for the violation of article 6. Accordingly, there had been a breach of article 13 (right to an effective remedy),
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