Den britiske regjeringen vil endre «stopp- og ransakloven» for å gi politiet muligheter til å ta en persons etniske opprinnelse med i betraktning. Endringen blir kraftig kritisert av flere grupper for sivile rettigheter.
De såkalte «Sus-lovene» – som tillot en viss profilering av mistenkte – ble skrinlagt i 1980-årene etter at politiets angivelig målrettede fokusering på svarte førte til raseopptøyer i London, Birmingham and Liverpool:
Police have since been expected to target suspects only on the basis of ‘reasonable suspicion’ they are involved in or plotting a crime.
They could not target specific groups – such as focusing on Muslims in the event of an apparent threat from Islamic extremists.
But draft Home Office police guidance, obtained by Liberty, sets down new rules that would allow race to be a basis for stop and search without suspicion.
The civil liberties group claims the proposal flies in the face of recommendations in Sir William Macpherson’s Inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence – and would also breach Labour’s Equality Act 2010.
The Act, framed by Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman, prohibits race discrimination by public bodies.
Isabella Sankey, director of policy for Liberty, said: ‘Stopping and searching individuals without suspicion is divisive enough without telling police they can directly discriminate on the grounds of race.
‘Significant progress has been made since the Lawrence Inquiry but the Home Office’s planned changes will set the clock back and jeopardise race relations in the UK.’
The controversy centres on Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
This allows for a police officer to stop and search without suspicion in a designated area for a 24-hour period.
Currently, it does not give any ground for targeting a person on the basis of race.
But the Home Office’s suggested amendments to the guidance state that – while officers ‘must take particular care’ not to discriminate – there ‘may be circumstances where it is appropriate for officers to take account of an individual’s ethnic origin in selecting persons and vehicles to be stopped’.
Officers must be responding to some form of intelligence, but not specific to the person involved.
Last night, a Home Office spokesman said: ‘The proposed new guidelines make clear that ethnicity may not be used as the sole basis for stopping and searching anyone under Section 60.
‘The previous guidance does not place any explicit restrictions on who may be stopped and this change is intended to protect civil liberties.’