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‘Young black men at stop-and-search risk’

Campaigner warns that Finsbury Park and Caledonian Road area could be the 'most impacted' by new powers

05 April, 2019 — By Emily Finch

YOUNG black men from Finsbury Park and Caledonian Road are most at risk of being criminalised after stop-and-search powers were expanded this week, a campaigner has warned.

Katrina Ffrench, chief executive of campaign group StopWatch and former chair of Islington’s Stop and Search Monitoring Group, warned that policing was moving away from “evidence-led” to “random”.

Home secretary Sajid Javid announced changes to police powers this week which mean the level of authorisation required to stop and search anyone in a certain area for a limited time has been reduced from a senior officer to inspector. Police now only need to reasonably believe serious violence “may” occur, not that it “will” occur under so-called Section 60 powers.

“I think police could capture people not in­volved in serious violence but low-level drug use and they may be criminalised for that. These police powers will drive racial disparity because officers will fall on their own racial prejudices,” Ms Ffrench said.

A Freedom of Information request made by the Tribune showed that 87 people were searched under Section 60 in September last year. Of those searched 78 people were let go with no further action while only one offensive weapon was found along with five class-B drugs.

Ms Ffrench said that Finsbury Park and the area around Caledonian Road would be the “most impacted”. “It’s concerning that officers are unable to identify those who are habitual knife carriers through good relationships with the community,” she said.

Mr Javid said: “Stop-and-search is a hugely effective power when it comes to disrupting crime, taking weapons off our streets and keeping us safe. That’s why we are making it simpler for police in areas particularly affected by serious violence to use Section 60 and increasing the number of officers who can authorise the power.”

Islington’s Stop and Search Monitoring Group is recruiting new members. It meets monthly and plays a crucial role in holding police to account.

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