Policing by consent? Sharp rise in London borough-wide stop and search orders

Police are issuing record numbers of Section 60 orders that put residents in whole boroughs under blanket stop and search powers, I have found.

The data shows that in just the first four months of this year 48 borough-wide ‘Section 60’ orders have been issued by police, compared with 18 in the whole of 2017 and just three in 2016.

Chart showing Borough-wide section 60 orders 2012 to 2018

The borough most affected is Newham, with these powers used 22 times across all its residents. Hackney has seen nine borough-wide Section 60 orders in 2018 to May, with seven in Camden.

A Section 60 order is intended to be a targeted measure, and should only be used as an exceptional response when needed to prevent anticipated violence. It removes, for a specific time and place the requirement for police to have reasonable suspicion of an individual who is stopped and searched.*

Borough-wide use of Section 60 subjects large numbers of Londoners to these powers, calling this targeting into question. Wit the use of Section 60 powers across whole boroughs clearly soaring, I worry that their increased use on a blanket, borough-wide basis will be counterproductive.

The more indiscriminate searches take place under these powers, the greater the risk of alienating people at a time when improving community relations and cooperation with the police is vital.

While stop and search has been going up in recent years, the Mayor has been reassuring Londoners that this is being done in a ‘targeted’ and ‘intelligence-led’ way, but with Section 60 in place so often in so many places these reassurances don’t count for much.

Borough police should also be doing more to inform the public when these operations are happening, at the very least putting information on social media when a whole borough is covered. I found less than one in four of the borough-wide Section 60s this year being communicated in this way.

Nearly half of all Section 60s that have been authorised so far this year were borough-wide: 46 of the 96 orders issued.

The data also show that the overall number of Section 60 orders issued by police in London has dramatically increased during this year, with 11 being issued in January rising to 47 in May 2018.

In response to my questions at Mayor’s Question Time in June, before I got the full data from him in response to my questions, the Mayor agreed to invite the Deputy Mayor of Policing and Crime and the relevant Met Police officer to attend a future Police and Crime Committee to discuss the matter further. We’ll have some serious questions for them.

You can watch my questions to the Mayor at MQT here:

* See the Police Stop & Search Policy Toolkit here, which says:
“Section 60 Criminal Justice & Public Order Act (CJPOA) is a unique power intended to prevent serious violence or the commission of offences involving the use of weapons or dangerous instruments. Section 60 powers should not be used instead of normal powers of stop and search in dealing with routine crime problems.” https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/strategy_governance_stop_a…

Stop Watch has also produced a Stop and Search Section 60 factsheet.

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