One in four people stopped by police officers are searched unlawfully, according to an independent watchdog.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) examined thousands of stop and search records and found that in 27% of cases there were insufficient grounds to justify the use of the powers.
It warned the practice has become “habitual” and said the way it is monitored has “slipped” since the results of an inquiry into the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence were published in 1999.
The inquiry highlighted the disproportionate use of stop and search among members of black and Asian communities and called for all searches to be properly recorded.
Tom Winsor, chief inspector at HMIC, said: “The police service in the UK is almost unique in investing its lowest-ranking officers with its greatest and most intrusive powers. These include those of stop and search.
“The lawful and proper use of the powers is essential to the maintenance of public confidence and community acceptance of the police, without which the British model of policing by consent cannot function.
“It is therefore crucial that police officers can show, with the greatest transparency, that they use these powers with the utmost lawfulness and integrity at all times.”
More than one million stop and searches are recorded every year, taking up more than 300,000 hours of police time.
However, just 9% of searches lead to an arrest.
The results of the HMIC inspection come after Home Secretary Theresa May launched a public consultation into the use of stop and search powers, amid fears the practice has become a “dreadful waste of time”.
The Government is expected to respond to both the report and the consultation before the end of the year.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said the Government “supports the ability of police officers to stop and search suspects within the law”.
“If stop and search is being used too much or with the wrong people, it is not just a waste of police time, it also serves to undermine public confidence in the police,” she added.
News published on: http://news.sky.com/story/1113209/one-in-four-police-stop-and-searches-unlawful