Policing – UK Government assessment
Policing in England and Wales has contributed to a regression in human rights protection for certain groups. Though there is a need to prevent and respond to crime, the use of force has increased, new technologies in policing pose risks, and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill could lead to disproportionate interferences with human rights. People from certain ethnic minority groups remain more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system for a range of reasons, including disproportionate levels of policing, and evidence shows an increase in the relative use of stop and search powers against Black people compared with White people. Some groups sharing protected characteristics report limited confidence in the police.
- In 2019–20, police stop and searches in England and Wales increased 86% from 2016–17. In 2019–20, the rate of stop and searches against Black people was almost nine times higher than against White people. Black people are almost 40 times more likely than White people to be stopped under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act stop and search powers.
- Racial disparities in the reported use of force increased between 2017–18 and 2019–20, with police now more than five times as likely to use force against Black people than White people. Black people represent 3.3% of the population but in 2019–20 experienced a quarter of police firearm tactics.
- Between March 2017 and March 2020, there was an increase in recorded police use of Tasers from 16,913 in 2017–18 to 32,058 in 2019–20 in England and Wales, and an increase in use of Tasers against children in recent years.
- In 2019, 7,038 children were detained overnight by the Metropolitan Police Service, with 67% of these children coming from an ethnic minority background, according to responses to Freedom of Information requests.
- A 2018 review found that young Black African Caribbean men were significantly over-represented in the Metropolitan Police Service Gangs Matrix used to identify and risk-assess gang members in London. In 2018, the Information Commissioner’s Office found that the Gangs Matrix had led to breaches of data protection laws. There is ongoing action to reform the Gangs Matrix.
- New technologies in policing, such as automated facial recognition, raise human rights concerns, including that they can replicate and magnify patterns of discrimination.
- Certain protected characteristic groups report limited confidence in the police or satisfaction with police interactions, including Black people (notably 16–24 year olds and women), Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, and bisexual, gay or lesbian people.
- Figures from 2020 show that Black and Asian people continue to be under-represented in the police force, particularly in senior roles.
- Data and analysis indicate that police enforcement of coronavirus restrictions has disproportionately affected ethnic minorities.
- Concerns about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021, include that the proposed criminalisation of unauthorised encampments poses significant risks to the way of life of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, and that the expansion of powers to police peaceful protest would be inconsistent with the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
- Those authorising criminal activity under the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021 must take account of the requirements of the Human Rights Act. However, serious crimes are not explicitly excluded from the 2021 Act, leading to concerns about its use, oversight and scrutiny.
Read more about the UK Government’s actions on policing.