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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 18:26 GMT
Push for new stop and search laws
A police officer searching a man
New rules could make it easier for police to stop and search suspects
Prime Minister Gordon Brown is planning to give police the power to stop and search people without giving a reason, sources have told the BBC.

It comes as Tory leader David Cameron urged greater use of stop and search to combat gun and knife crime.

The two leaders clashed earlier in the Commons with Mr Cameron urging Mr Brown to scrap forms officers must fill in when they stop someone.

Mr Brown said the Flanagan Report on the issue will be published next week.

Labour has been locked in a war of words with the Conservatives over stop and search, with the two parties promoting apparently similar policies.

In the Commons, Mr Cameron challenged Mr Brown to scrap the "stop and account" forms officers must fill in when they stop someone, which he said were a "colossal waste of police time".

Young black and British Asian kids...are being stabbed and shot and the rules are getting in the way of protecting them
David Cameron
Conservative leader

Mr Brown told him to wait for the publication of the Flanagan report next Monday, adding: "We are taking the action that is necessary and you should be supporting us."

In an interim report published last year, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the chief inspector of constabulary in England and Wales, said police were bogged down in red tape and afraid to use their own judgement.

In a separate move, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is expected to announce in the next few days that more police officers will be given the power to search people without giving a reason, the BBC understands.

Police 'racism'

The powers - which have been trialled in four pilot areas - will be limited to a 24 hour period within specific area where there is reason to believe serious crime is being committed.

Mr Cameron told the BBC he would back such a move - and he dismissed claims that it would harm community relations.

Mr Cameron said the rules had been brought in to protect black and Asian communities from racist police officers but were now harming the communities they were meant to help.

It's one thing to cut down on bureaucracy - quite another to use powers as a blunt instrument which alienates more young people than it protects
Shami Chakrabarti
Liberty

Under Tory proposals, police sergeants would be able to authorise the use of stop and search of pedestrians and vehicles in a specific area for up to six hours - or 48 hours if permission is granted by a senior officer.

Mr Cameron said concern about a return to "sus" laws - one of the factors behind inner city riots in the early 1980s - were misplaced and the police were no longer racist.

"We need to make sure the police behave properly but I think there is a big change in policing since the 1980s and they understand concerns about racism, concerns about targeting particular groups," Mr Cameron told BBC News.

He said black and Asian communities would have to accept more stop and search but that it was necessary to combat the growth of violent crime in those communities.

"It may mean more stopping and searching - it should mean more stopping and searching - but I think that has to happen," added Mr Cameron.

Government figures suggest black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, while Asians are almost twice as likely.

Laws 'must go'

Speaking earlier, in an interview with The Sun, Mr Cameron said: "Stop and search rules were put in place to protect young black and Asian British kids.

"Now it's the young black and British Asian kids that are being stabbed and shot and the rules are getting in the way of protecting them."

He said a Conservative government would need to work out whether the rules on "reasonable suspicion" should be scrapped altogether or replaced with the "say-so of an inspector or sergeant or lower".

"But those current laws, be in no doubt, have to go."

He added: "This is not about race. It's about stopping crime and reducing the number of victims of crime.

"The statistics are undeniable and it's clear by carrying out more stop and searches it is the black and Asian communities who will benefit most."

Director of human rights group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, said: "We look forward to Sir Ronnie's detailed report and less political bluster on stop and search.

"It's one thing to cut down on bureaucracy - quite another to use powers as a blunt instrument which alienates more young people than it protects."

Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said he backed more intelligence-led stop and search but would resist Tory and Labour efforts to scrap data gathering.

"The police need good relations with all our communities. Stop and search is currently used six times as much with ethnic minorities.

"That is why records must be kept and reviewed, and why we will resist any Tory or Labour attempts to remove these safeguards."



VOTE RESULTS
Will greater stop and search powers reduce crime?
Yes
 50.00% 
No
 42.64% 
Not sure
 7.36% 
7034 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

SEE ALSO
Two bailed in Rhys murder inquiry
16 Jan 08 |  Merseyside
Stop-and-search police page live
06 Jan 08 |  Wiltshire
Minister supports stop and search
21 Dec 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Politicians in police search row
20 Dec 07 |  Scotland
Stop and search 'not overzealous'
16 Dec 07 |  Scotland

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