Stop and search


Posted on 18 Nov 2021

Liberty, StopWatch and UNJUST UK have responded to the sharp rise in the use of stop and search detailed in Home Office statistics released today.

The three charities condemned the Government’s plans to roll back safeguards and expand the most discriminatory forms of stop and search in the Policing Bill, as the latest figures show that once again police use of this intrusive power has risen.

Despite the number of stop and searches rising by almost a quarter over the past year, just 11 percent of all searches result in an arrest, with people of colour, particularly Black men, and working class communities, disproportionately affected by the stops.

The groups have called for the government to listen to the most affected communities rather than expanding powers which will exacerbate the conditions that lead to serious violence.

Key figures

  • There were 695,009 stop and searches conducted under section 1 an increase of 135,808 (24 percent) compared with the previous year.
  • The arrest rate has fallen from 13 percent to 11 percent.
  • 70 percent of stop and searches in the year ending March 2021 were on males aged between 15 and 34, whilst this cohort comprises 13 percent of the overall population. Males aged 15-19 had the highest rate of stop and search, at 99 stop and searches per 1,000 population.
  • The collection of this data coincides with parts of all three coronavirus lockdowns, meaning for large parts of the year police were handed sweeping powers to detain “potentially infectious” persons, and to fine people they thought were breaking lockdown regulations. Liberty’s investigative journalism unit Liberty Investigates reported that these expansive powers were widely over-used and used disproportionately against people of colour.

Emmanuelle Andrews, Policy and Campaigns Officer at Liberty, said: “We all want our communities to be safe, and to live without fear of harassment and discrimination. Today’s statistics prove once again that police have overused and abused stop and search powers, making life harder and more dangerous for certain communities, and particularly Black men.

“These statistics reinforce just how alarming the Government’s plans to expand stop and search powers are, especially given their recent dangerous proposals to remove the very safeguards that are supposed to protect people from discrimination and abuse of police power. Liberty and other groups have long opposed these plans, including new protest-specific stop and search powers and other disproportionate measures in the Policing Bill, which will only serve to exacerbate the conditions that lead to serious violence.

“Former police leaders, as well as community and social workers, have all warned that new and increased stop and search powers will put young people at risk. Rather than continuing to put people in danger, the Government must scrap the Bill, roll back police powers and listen to the meaningful discussions about alternative ways to keep communities safe.”

Habib Kadiri, Research and Policy Manager at StopWatch UK said: “Today’s figures prove once again that the vast majority of stop and searches cause more problems than they solve.

“What is exceptional is how racial disparities persisted even during a global pandemic, proving that the police never stopped working tirelessly to overpolice people of colour.

“Furthermore, the continued decline in find and arrest rates reflects fears that police-community relations are backsliding towards the dark days of the sus laws.

“We simply would not accept this of any other emergency service profession. The police must do better.”

Katrina Ffrench, Director of UNJUST UK, said: “When crime rates declined at a time of a global pandemic, officers decided that increasing searching by 24% would be an effective use of resources. What a missed opportunity to support communities -the phrase ‘overpoliced, unprotected’ comes to mind.”


I'm looking for advice on this

Did you know Liberty offers free human rights legal advice?

What are my rights on this?

Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them

Did you find this content useful?

Help us make our content even better by letting us know whether you found this page useful or not

Need advice or information?