14 year old boy stopped by police 30 times. Why?

Mike McCartney

19th November 2021

Quite remarkable headline caught my attention, and raises question again about policing in the UK

Over 20 years since the publication of the Macpherson report, there are lingering questions about policing and minority ethnic communities.

This is a topic not directly covered by the current iterations of A Level Politics specifications. This is unfortunate. I used to teach the UK Political Issues option on the old Edexcel paper, and I found that the questions it raised always engaged students more than looking at, say, UK political institutions. I think it would be great if Politics departments could find time to incorporate discussions on these kinds of topics. That’s why as a Politics teacher, I have set up and led a Politics Society at different schools I have taught at, with these being led by students and meeting during the school day. And I also encourage a student team to produce and edit a current affairs magazine, much in the style of The Economist, in order to broaden and deepen Politics subject knowledge.

So, according to the story in the Guardian, earlier this week:

"A 14-year-old black schoolboy has accused the Metropolitan police of racist targeting after claiming he has been stopped by police about 30 times in the last two years. He has not been charged with or convicted of any offence.

The boy, who lives in south London with his 41-year-old mother, and hopes to train as an engineer, says he has been stopped and searched so many times by the police that he has become fearful of leaving home.

“Every time I hear sirens I think the police are coming for me. I don’t want any headaches. I just don’t want the police to stop me any more,” he told the Guardian."

Read the full story here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/nov/15/black-boy-in-stop-and-search-30-times-accuses-met-police-of-racist-profiling

As I say above, this news comes over twenty years after the Macpherson Inquiry. What was it?

See a background here from the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/feb/22/macpherson-report-what-was-it-and-what-impact-did-it-have

Concerns about policing and the black community were also addressed by a parliamentary report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (i.e. made up by members of both houses). I quote here from the section on "Failures to secure Black people’s human rights":

“Over-policing of the Black community is another related and longstanding problem. In England and Wales between April 2018 and March 2019 there were four stop and searches for every 1,000 white person, compared with 38 for every 1,000 Black person. Stop and search powers can engage Article 8 ECHR (the right to respect for private and family life) as well as Article 5 ECHR (right to liberty and security). In general, stop and search powers as currently formulated are capable of being compatible with the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 ECHR), however, if they are used disproportionately against certain groups this could engage the right to non-discrimination (Article 14 ECHR) as read with Article 8 ECHR. If a stop and search goes beyond the normal cursory stop and search, it could meet the criteria for engaging Article 5 ECHR (right to liberty). Moreover, if a stop results in an arrest that will engage Article 5 ECHR. Whilst these powers can be used in a way that is compliant with one of the limbs of Article 5, if they are consistently being used in a way that impacts a particular community (in a way that is not justified or proportionate) then this could engage Article 14 as read with Article 5 ECHR. At the heart of this issue is the stereotyping of Black people, especially Black men. In their evidence the United Friends and Families Campaign, a group comprising the families and friends of those who have died in police, prison and psychiatric custody, told us:

“Black men are systematically labelled as dangerous, hostile and threatening, leading to the legitimation of violence against them - violence which, for our loved ones, was lethal. Again and again, we have seen officers justify brutal unprovoked attacks on Black and Asian men with comments about how ‘threatened’ they feel, most recently in the Sheku Bayoh case. For the police, it seems, the mere claim that they ‘felt threatened’ is an instant get- out clause. It means they are allowed to kill us.””

This is the link to the full report: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/3376/documents/32359/default/

And what finally convinced me to upload this blog entry today was a headline in this morning's Guardian:

“Use of stop and search rises 24% in England and Wales in a year.Equivalent of one in five male minority ethnic teenagers stopped in year ending March 2021.”

This is the online version: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2021/nov/18/stop-and-search-rose-by-24-in-england-and-wales-during-lockdowns

I include some video resources here as a starting point for researching these issues further...

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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