UK Government should learn Scotland’s lessons on “poisonous” stop and search

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today said that the Prime Minister must not make the same mistakes that the Scottish Government made, as he warned that industrial scale stop and search “undermines community policing and poisons the relationship between officers and the public”.

The Prime Minister has convened a new National Policing Board, whose membership includes Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House – the former Chief Constable of Police Scotland. This week, Boris Johnson announced the expansion of police stop and search powers.

Sir Stephen was the architect of industrial scale stop and search in Scotland, which saw at its peak police logging search rates seven times those recorded in England and Wales. This was dismantled following a 2-year campaign by the Liberal Democrats who successfully re-wrote the law, introducing a ban on searches without justification.

Vast improvements to official recording prevent direct comparisons, but official records indicate 682,968 searches were conducted in 2012/13. There were 36,307 searches conducted last year and Scotland was recently described as “the leading nation in Europe”.

Stephen House resigned from Police Scotland under pressure over issues including stop and search and claims of a target-driven culture.

Mr Rennie said:

“The Prime Minister would be unwise to make the same mistakes as the Scottish Government and their centralised police force under Sir Stephen House.

“SNP ministers from Alex Salmond downwards said they were ‘comfortable’ with intrusive stop and search policies and the old system which deemed children under 10 capable of consenting to being searched.

“Industrial scale stop and search undermines community policing and poisons the relationship between officers and the public.

“The dismantling of Sir Stephen House’s industrial scale stop and search policy, thanks to the Liberal Democrats, has been a win-win for both people’s rights and police resources. Search numbers decreased dramatically, detection rates improved, and the fact every search requires proper justification means both the police and public have greater confidence that the system is proportionate and respectful.

“Experts have unanimously backed the new approach and the police agree that searching in Scotland has been transformed for the better. The Prime Minister shouldn’t make the same old mistake.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Boris Johnson tried a big increase in suspicion-less stop and search when he was Mayor of London, but his own Government’s analysis shows it didn’t work to cut crime.

“This warning from Scotland adds to the weight of evidence that industrial stop and search is a failed policy.”

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