Stop-and-search arrests 'too low'
The number of stop-and-search incidents that lead to arrest are "far too low for comfort", the Home Secretary said, as she launched a fresh public consultation into the controversial powers.
Theresa May told the House of Commons that more than one million stop-and-searches are recorded every year but on average only about 9% of the incidents result in an arrest.
In addition, Mrs May said statistics show that people from black or ethnic minority backgrounds are up to seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than if they are white.
She said: "The Government is concerned about the use of stop-and-search for two reasons. First, it must be applied fairly and in a way that builds community confidence in the police, rather than undermining it. And second, given the scale of recording requirements placed on the police, when stop-and-search is misapplied, it is a waste of police time."
Police officers must have "reasonable grounds to suspect" that a subject is guilty of some form of criminal behaviour before they are allowed to conduct a stop-and-search. Just under 1.2 million searches occur ever year.
Mrs May said the powers were important in the daily fight against crime, with 45,000 criminals being arrested in the last 12 months in London alone as a result of a stop-and-search.
But the Home Secretary said the rate of arrests compared to the overall number of stop-and-searches has prompted her to question "whether stop-and-search is always used appropriately".
She added that "everybody involved in policing has a duty to make sure that nobody is ever stopped just on the basis of their skin colour or ethnicity".
The Home Secretary said she was also concerned that stop-and-search, when used inappropriately, was a "dreadful waste of time", adding that a rough total of 312,000 hours per year are spent by police officers conducting stop-and-searches, which take an average of 16 minutes to complete.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights campaigners Liberty, said: "After years of bad and counterproductive practice, it's encouraging that the Home Secretary is waking up to concerns about stop-and-search. Lax powers have failed to increase public safety and only alienated the young. But whether it's snooping or stopping and searching, warm words and guidance are no substitute for tightening up the law."