Police ordered to cut back on stop and search as Theresa May condemns 'unacceptable affront to justice'
- Home Secretary says PCs are abusing their power to frisk the public
- Comes after inspectors found a quarter of stop and searches were illegal
- New laws will be introduced to curb police powers if nothing changes
Stop and search is 'unfair to young black men' and has to be dramatically cut back, Home Secretary Theresa May announced today.
The Tory minister said police forces had to stop using the frisking power so often - or face new laws to curb their powers.
She said the number of times it was being used was unacceptable.
Theresa May said it was 'absolutely disgraceful' that young black men are targeted by police using stop and search
In an announcement to the Commons, she added that police officers will be forced to go through training courses on how to use the controversial power.
If they fail the test they will be stripped of being able to stop and search the public
They will also face disciplinary action if they fail to abide by a new code laying out what 'reasonable grounds for suspicion' are needed to use stop and search.
'The revised code will emphasise that where officers are not using their powers properly they will be subject to formal performance or disciplinary proceedings,' Mrs May said.
She told the House of Commons that fresh laws on stop and search will be introduced if forces fail to comply with the new guidance.
The changes are being brought in after Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary found 27% of stop and searches had no reasonable grounds for suspicion.
This means more than a quarter of the one million searches conducted last year could have been illegal.
Black and ethnic minorities are also up to six times more likely to be searched than white people.
The Home Secretary told the House she had 'long been concerned about the use of stop and search'.
'While it is undoubtedly an important police power, when it is misused stop and search can be counter-productive,' she said.
'First, it can be an enormous waste of police time. Second, when innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and the public.
'In those circumstances it is an unacceptable affront to justice.'
She added: 'It is unfair, especially for young, black men.'
Mrs May commissioned HMIC, the police watchdog, to inspect every force in England and Wales to see how stop and search powers are used.
But her plans to overhaul the power were blocked earlier this year by David Cameron - amid fears the Conservatives would be seen as too soft on crime.
The Home Secretary is reported to have faced opposition from David Cameron in her bid to target police stop and search powers. The PM is said to be concerned that the Tories could be painted as soft on crime
Mrs May said: 'But I want to make myself absolutely clear - if the numbers do not come down.. the Government will return with primary legislation to make these things happen.'
'Nobody wins when stop and search is misapplied,' she said.
'It is a waste of police time. It is unfair, especially to young black men. It is bad for public confidence in the police.'
Mrs May admitted that the only reason for a large number of stop and searches is that the person being searched is black.
Describing it as 'absolutely disgraceful', she said it had become a way of life for young people in black and ethnic minority communities and must be changed.
The Home Secretary said: 'It is very clear that in a large number of cases the reasonable grounds for suspicion were not there and one can only therefore assume, given that black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person, that it is precisely the fact that they are a black person that has led to that stop and search taking place.
'It is absolutely disgraceful and sadly, as I indicated earlier in response to another MP, this is a feeling that has come through to young people in black and minority ethnic communities that this is what happens and that this is, if you like, a way of life.
'I want to change it and make sure it's not a way of life.'
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused Prime Minister David Cameron of watering down Mrs May's reforms.
Ms Cooper said Mrs May had not gone far enough.
She said: 'These proposals are too weak.'