By Jo Moss
Edited by Gemma Phelan
What do you think of the powers that allow the police to Stop and Search? It appears that the government is concerned about your thoughts on the matter. Yes, really, they want to know what you think.
The Home Office recently announced that intend to consult the public on their views on granting the police powers to stop and search. Since this is a public consultation, we at NORML UK intend to provide an official response, and would encourage our members and supporters to do likewise. The consultation period commenced on July 2nd 2013 and will continue for 6 weeks, ending 13th August 2013, so there is no time to waste.
This consultation covers the following stop and search powers:
• Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE)
• Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
• Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1
Whilst the consultation is looking at the 3 of the above areas , NORML UK are more concerned with the on going implications of Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which:-
- Allows an officer to stop and search persons, vehicles and vessels for prohibited and controlled drugs
- Applies when the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is in possession of a controlled drug
To the reasonable person someone going about their daily life with a few grams of cannabis in their pocket or car poses no threat or danger to anyone, but in one moment, through stop and search, this person may become criminalised, and have their career or life fundamentally changed. Is this a right and fair process or a waste of police time?
In all the Acts where stop and search is sanctioned, there is a grey area, which is entirely subjective and depends on the quality of methods used for the detection. However, in light of decriminalisation of cannabis in Portugal and Spain, we need to ask ourselves whether criminalising people for possession of cannabis is worthy of the cost of police time and effort and the billions of pounds of our taxes that are used to support it.
It could also be said that stop and search powers are counter productive in that they may provoke hostility, because the laws and regulations from the Misuse of Drugs Act are perceived by many as ridiculous and demeaning. The black market and organised crime are a product of prohibition, with evidence based, sensible drugs policies, which we hope would see a range of regulated supply options, the black market for drugs would essentially cease to exist and police could get on with fighting real crime and crime prevention.
For your convenience the Home Office have prepared a consultation document, which asks specific questions, the document can be printed here https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/212014/Stop_and_Search_consultation_Revised_WEB.pdf
and returned by post to the address supplied
or online directly here http://www.homeofficesurveys.homeoffice.gov.uk/s/84302GDEVE
There are a total of 16 specific question areas, and the usual demographic questions. NORML UK encourages all it members and supporters to respond and have their say, and asks you not to forget the deadline for submissions is less than 3 weeks away.
If you have ever been the victim of a police stop and search under Misuse Of Drugs Act, or any other, and been found in possession of only a personal amount of cannabis, (no other aggravating factors), NORML UK would like to hear your experiences. Please use the contact form on our website to share your story or email firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate the best method of contacting you for further information. We will be writing a future article looking at the negative impact and real cost to a persons status of police stop and search powers
Jo Martin Moss is Deputy Director for NORML UK.