Stop and search powers may be extended to tackle acid attacks and drone misuse

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Police will be handed strengthened stop and search powers under a proposed crackdown on acid attacks and crimes involving drones or lasers.

The Home Office confirmed it will consult on widening the circumstances in which the tactics can be used.

Officers can currently stop and search individuals they suspect of being in possession of a corrosive substance and intent on causing injury.

The proposed extension will allow police to search anyone they suspect of carrying a corrosive in a public place.

Ministers say the move – first mooted as part of a blueprint to tackle serious violence earlier this year – will enable forces to take better preventative action.

Drone stock
The Government unveiled proposals to extend stop and search powers to cover offences relating to misuse of drones and laser pointers (Peter Byrne/PA)

The Government also unveiled proposals to extend stop and search powers to cover offences relating to misuse of drones and laser pointers.

Figures show there were 93 near-misses between drones and manned aircraft last year.

Critical national infrastructure, sensitive sites, defence establishments, large-scale events and crowded public places face a potential threat from “criminal or hostile drone activity”, the Home Office said.

The department also highlighted growing concerns over lasers being pointed at aircraft, with more than 1,000 reported instances annually since 2010.

Under the proposals, officers would be able to stop and search a person or vehicle in a public place if they have reasonable grounds for suspecting they will find a drone used to commit an offence under the Air Navigation Order 2016.

A similar power would be available in cases where police suspect they will discover a laser pointer used to commit the newly created offence of shining or directing a beam at a vehicle, thereby dazzling or distracting the person in control.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid backed a boost in the use of stop and search weeks after his appointment.

In the year to March 2017, police in England and Wales carried out 303,845 stops and searches – the lowest number since current data records started in 2001/02.

The tactics have repeatedly attracted controversy, amid criticism they unfairly focused on black and minority ethnic individuals.

Reforms were introduced in 2014 by then home secretary Theresa May to ensure stop and search was used in a more targeted way.

Announcing the new proposals, Policing Minister Nick Hurd said: “A bottle of acid can be as lethal as a knife or a firearm, and these new powers will enable police officers to prevent these despicable thugs from carrying out their terrible crimes.

“The Home Secretary has been clear that stop and search is a vital and effective policing tool when used correctly.”

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for corrosive attacks, backed the proposals.

“Officers should be confident to use stop and search – proportionately and respectfully – because it’s an important investigative tool,” she said.

Mark Swan, director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Laws are now in place to protect aircraft from both drones and laser pointers, and we support efforts by the police to enforce these laws.”

Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, said drones were “putting passengers’ lives at needless risk”, adding: “This needs to be tackled on a number of fronts, but ensuring the police have the powers to stop and search for drone offences is an important one.”

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