Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Theresa May to review stop and search

The home secretary addresses the Reading the Riots conference at the LSE Link to this video
    Theresa May has announced a national review of how police use stop and search powers in response to the findings of the Guardian/LSE report on the August riots. Speaking at the Reading the Riots conference on Wednesday, the home secretary announced she had asked the Association of Chief Police Officers to review the use of stop and search by forces across the country. The Reading the Riots research found that anger at the police was a major fuel for the London riots, with 86% of rioters citing policing as an important or very important factor in causing the disturbances. May said police were right to stop and search those caught in the riots as often as they did, but said use of the controversial tactic should be proportionate. "Should we worry that the rioters were eight times more likely than the average Londoner to be stopped and searched, when the research found young rioters were 22 times more likely than their peers to have been convicted of a crime?" she asked. "I strongly believe that stop and search should be used proportionately, without prejudice, and with the support of local communities … and I have asked the Association of Chief Police Officers to look at best practice on stop and search." May rejected rioters' assertions that the unrest was linked to alienation from the police or the government, dismissing concerns raised in the research report as "excuses". "What the LSE Guardian report tells me more than anything is that the rioters still have not accepted responsibility for their actions," she said. "They are still blaming others – the police, the government, society. They are still making excuses, but I don't accept those excuses." May blamed the looting and unrest on the desire for "instant gratification". "The riots weren't about protests, unemployment, cuts," she said. "The riots were not about the future, about tomorrow. They were about today. They were about now. They were about instant gratification." The home secretary said aspects of the study's methodology concerned her, saying the research was disproportionately weighted towards London, focused too heavily on rioters and underplayed the role of criminality. May added that she felt London's gangs had played a significant role in August's riots, despite evidence from the Guardian/LSE study and official sources that the role of gangs in the disturbances was minimal. "I believe the fact that one in five rioters in London were gang members is significant," she said. "If we are honest with ourselves, we need to accept that not enough has been done over the years to deal with this problem that we all knew existed and that we knew was not being addressed. This government is committed to dealing with it."

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