'Stop and search' is given the once-over

 

The racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 led to the Metropolitan police being branded "institutionally racist."

Almost 20 years on from the brutal murder case that shaped English legal history in terms of the scale of the reforms made in its wake, the Metropolitan police is facing fresh allegations of racism. This time, from Stuart Lawrence - the brother of the late Stephen Lawrence.

Brother of Stephen Lawrence stopped by police "up to 25 times"

Mr. Lawrence, 35, has alleged that police officers have stopped him in his vehicle "up to 25 times" - simply because of the colour of his skin.

"I've never been in trouble with the law", said Mr. Lawrence. "Whenever I've been stopped, I've never subsequently been charged with anything. There can be no other reason, apart from racism, for me being stopped so often," he added.

Last year, Dr. Richard Stone, a panel member of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, recommended that police officers who targeted suspects solely on account of their ethnicity should face prosecution for misuse of public resources.

In this latest incident, Mr. Lawrence claims that, when he asked the officers why he had been stopped, one of them told him that he was "naturally suspicious" of him. According to Mr. Lawrence, another officer subsequently advised him that he had been stopped under section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which gives police the power to pull over a vehicle.

Mr. Lawrence's lawyers argue that, although the law permits officers to stop the driver of a vehicle, the legislation cited "does not cover the reason for the stop." They claim that the police were clearly trying to retrospectively "justify" their decision to check Mr. Lawrence's details. Mr. Lawrence's complaint has been passed to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The available statistics lend support to Mr. Lawrence's allegations - black people are far more likely to be stopped by the police than their Caucasian counterparts. 

Metropolitan police "11 times more likely to stop and search a black person"

Noting significant rates of "racial disproportionality," a study by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission found that, in 2010-2011, the Metropolitan police was 11 times more likely to stop and search a black person, while the British Transport police were 31 times more likely to do so.

Whatever the merits of Mr. Lawrence's claims may be, a stop and search practice that targets individuals exclusively on the basis of their race is not only wrong in principle, but also a waste of police time and the public purse.

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