The human rights of stop and search
At the Conservative Party conference last month Alexander Paul, an 18 year old student from Crystal Palace in London described how he had been stopped and searched by police more than 20 times since he was 13. He has never had a criminal record. Mr Paul is black, and he thinks that is why he is stopped so regularly.
The Home Secretary Theresa May came on after Mr Paul and shared the bald statistics with the conference - 90% of stop and searches don’t lead to an arrest, and black people are six times more likely to be stopped than white people.
The overuse and misuse of stop and search powers is a human rights abuse. Ethnic profiling - the use of racial, ethnic, national or religious characteristics as a way of singling out people for identity or security checks rather than reasonable suspicion -is illegal discrimination under our national Human Rights Act, the European Convention on Human Rights, the EU Race Equality Directive and by the UN Human Rights Committee. Stop and search can be a useful tool to fight crime, but as Ms May’s statistics show, there are too many cases where people have been singled out for the wrong reasons.
Like Mr Paul, Nick knows what it’s like to be targeted by the police because of the colour of his skin. It’s happened more than 30 times. The added dynamic is that he is a police officer himself. Despite being one of the team, Nick’s experiences of being stopped have made him feel intimidated and wary of the police while he’s going about his everyday life.
We know that it is stories like Nick’s which help people to understand the real value of human rights. These stories have to be repeated many times for the vast majority of people to hear them and then understand the implication of them. That’s how we can make the connection between human rights, and the issues which we know are relevant, rather than with issues which most people have no connection to, or sympathy for.
Equally Ours has been set up to share stories like Nick’s and show that human rights are an important tool in challenging discrimination and creating a fairer society. We are looking for more stories which show how important human rights are. We will share them with people who don’t know how vital they are and with the media so they can tell the whole story.
If you have a story about using human rights protections or arguments to challenge unfairness or discrimination we’d really like to hear from you. Contact Equally Ours at www.equally-ours.org.uk
Rachel Krys is Head of Media and Communications at Equally Ours