The Reasonable Suspicion Element of PACE Stop and Search Police Powers in the UK
PACE stands for Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) and the codes of practice which accompany the law. This law aims at establishing the powers of the police department of the UK and keeping the rights of the common public protected at the same time. It maintains a balance between the two. The codes of practice included under PACE are stop and search, detention, arrest, identification, investigation and interviewing the detainees. The Code A of PACE allows the police of the UK to stop and search a vehicle or a person without making an arrest initially. The report will discuss the PACE in detail and its significance for the police department as well the common public of the UK. The main question which will be answered in this section of report is “whether the reasonable suspicion element of PACE Stop and search police powers in the UK”. More specifically, the Code A of PACE, related to stop and search will be discussed in detail in this report and it will be checked whether this law is practically applicable for all or some sections of the society have special or no privileges regarding the same. It will also discuss whether the blacks and whites are equally treated while the implementation of this law. This report will support the claim that the BAME citizens are most likely stopped by police on behalf of suspicion than the white counterparts. One of the main reasons for this issue is Section 60 which allows the police department of the country to stop and search people belonging to any community without any suspicion.
Introduction to PACE and its provisions
As mentioned above, PACE allows the police constable of UK to stop and search any of the citizens of UK if they find them suspicious for the following incidences or activities:
- Possessing a pointed article or blade or threatening someone using these articles.
- Possessing prohibited or stolen articles
- Possessing certain prohibited fireworks
This law allows the police officers to detain and search any person for the purpose of search on the basis of suspicion in any public place. However, the time period for which a person is detained is based on the quality of evidences for suspicion and they are asked to keep the time period to minimum.
This right can be exercised by the police officers based on a few evidences which support the act of suspicion. Under section 1 (2) of this act, the police constables need to possess reasonable grounds in order to suspect any individual and this requirement for the police officers is known as the “Reasonable suspicion” and can be found under section 1 (3). This section shows that the police needs to have a reason or justification for the stop and search operation and thus, it safeguards the rights of the individuals and the misuse of the power by the police officers. This clause was added in the PACE in 1984 and before it, this act was practi8ced under the Philips Commission 1981.
In my opinion, stopping and searching people based on reasonable suspicion is not a problem as it is the duty of the police officers to enquire whether these people are not bearing any of the above mentioned suspicious elements and are not here to harm the people. But the main question arises whether this act is practiced on the way it is expected to be or the people of UK face can sort of discrimination while this act is being practiced. It is also a question whether all the communities are traced equally or are there a few communities which are stopped and searched more than the others.
Section 60 and its impact on BAME communities
There have been evidences that a few communities face the problems much more than the others. The section 60 allows the police constables to stop and search the individuals with no reasonable suspicion under certain circumstances. A few of such circumstances include stopping the individuals in the areas of violence or carrying dangerous weapons and instruments. This section however, presents a loop hole in the indiscriminate and equal practicing of this law. It creates the scope of misuse of power done by the police officers of the UK. Thus, these powers were used in the past and the use of section 60 has been reduced to minimum now. The PACE is used today where the police officers have to present a justified reason for stopping and searching any person. The reasonable suspicion criterion has presented the officers with the liability to stop the individuals with valid grounds for the act. The Code A of the PACE presents the provision for reasonable suspicion, under which the officer first needs to have a genuine suspicion that they will find some suspicious possession with the individuals, and second, the object which is found by the officers is reasonable. This means that the officers need to explain the reason for suspicion in terms of information and intelligence. They cannot stop and search any individual based on their physical appearance or stereotypical images of a community.
Racial discrimination and PACE 1984
There have been certain claims which say that the implementation of this law is not equal and the black communities are more frequently stopped and searched in comparison to white communities. If this is so, it is totally incorrect and illegal and the section 60 still persists which allows the police officers to arrest the individuals with no suspicion. This act of the UK police has been heavily criticised by the Campaign Groups all across the world. Racial discrimination has been a long running problem associated with the implementation of this act. BAME citizens are more likely to be stopped and searched in comparison to the white counterparts. This claim has also been supported by Sharp and Atherton as well in their study in 2007. The black people and the minority groups are more frequently stopped and searched by the police officers in UK. Due to these reasons, these minority groups and lost their trust from police and mistrust the authority. Thus, there need to be some efforts put by the government and the department to establish cordial relations with these communities.
Factors affecting racial discrimination
There are certain factors which lead to the above mentioned inequality. The first factor is the direct racial discrimination. A few racist police officers target the BAME communities and the other minority groups and stop them unnecessary. This can be a result of the widespread racial discrimination which was practiced in UK years before but now these practices have reduced or even eliminated. Still, a few traces of this opinion can be found in the police department of the nation. This has also been mentioned in the Panorama Documentary which also mentions the racist mentality of the police officers in the UK and how they target the BAME communities more than others. The second factor is the institutional and implicit racial discrimination which highlights the working assumption of the UK police officers about criminality. This can arise due to importer interpretation of the knowledge and experience gained by the police officers during his years of policing. The third factor is the poor relations between the BAME Communities and the police which have been developed due to excessive stopping of the people belonging to the BAME communities by the police officers in the past years and these communities consider themselves to be highly targeted. This has led to distrust and frustration of these communities in regard to the police officers of the country. However the police communities have a reason for doing so. They say that most of the groups related to drug trafficking and such crimes employee black citizens the most and thus, if they stop people belonging to this community, they are justified in doing so as they are doing it for protecting the people of their country. These factors have also been mentioned by Harris in his study in 1994. He also stated in his study due to racial discrimination, there rev a number of people are stopped and searched and this hurts their sentiments.
One of the other major factors for this problem is the poverty and marginalization. The BAME communities are most often struck by poverty and marginalization in UK. This has led to the development of the criminal behaviour in these communities and thus, the police also targets these communities the most as they suspect them of being the part of a crime. The reputation of the BAME communities is very high in terms of criminality.
There are a number of news articles which claim that the black and Asian people are targeted during the implementation of the PACE Act. According to the statistics, in the year 2016/2017, out of 1000 cases for stop and search in UK, 4 people were found to be White and 29 people were found to be black. It confirms the claims which have been made regarding disproportionate use of the reasonable suspicion criterion of PACE 1984. The likelihood of Black people for being stopped and searched was 8 times in comparison to the white people, which was just 4 times. The similar information has been published on a news article of BBC News which states that the probability of a black being stopped and arrested is 29 times more than that of a white, which is highly disproportionate. In the Panoramic video of 2000, the policeman pointed the same thing when he said that the some innocent and black Asia have to face the legislations a d are stopped and searched without any reasonable claim. Thus is due to the racial discrimination which is prevalent in the UK place department for years. However, most of the cases of stop and search are justified but a few of them are backed by the racial discrimination.
All the evidences suggested above, clear the picture that the “reasonable suspicion phrase” is developed to ensure that the police does not abuse their powers and present reasonable evidences to justify any act of stop and search. But racial discrimination is still prevalent in the UK police department and that is why the police officers target the BAME communities more than the others. This shows that the PACE 1984 is not practiced in an expected way and innocent people have to suffer as a result of this. The minority communities of blacks and Asians are constantly targeted and stereotyped due to the acts done by a very small section of people of their communities. This is the violation of the rights of the citizens of UK and this issue needs to be fixed as early as possible. The police officers must be trained for this and must be told that every person belonging to a typical community is not a criminal. The police department must ensure that the people trust them and the rights of the people living in the community must be protected. More campaigns such as BUSS must be introduced which may help people in understanding the importance of stop and search. Also, the police officers who are found guilty of such an act must be punished considerable as violation of fundamental rights of people of a nation is, itself, a criminal offence. Thus, it can be said that reasonable suspicion element is a good initiative of UK government but its implementation needs to be monitored more strictly.
The above essay is aimed at determining whether the reasonable suspicion element of PACE Stop and Search Act is equal for all or not. The study conducted during the course of essay shows that the racial discrimination persists in the police department of UK and the people belonging to BAMRE communities are more often targeted by the police officers of the nation. The major factors relating to it is more involvement of the black communities in drug trafficking and other such crimes. Keeping this in mind, the police officers have stereotyped these communities as the criminal communities and they stop and search them quite often without any suspicion as well. Thus, there need to be some specific guidelines developed which can monitor the relevant and accurate implementation of this act.
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