August 7: Striking the right balance

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POLICE stop and search powers have long been a source of controversy, leading to accusations of unfairness and even discrimination.

Ethnic minorities in particular have complained bitterly that they are disproportionately targeted in what they allege is an abuse of power.

It is against this background that details of the stops and searches carried out in Yorkshire have been released, in a welcome move towards transparency that is in the interests of both the police and the public.

For the police, the figures spell out who has been targeted, and for the public they give an insight into what is happening on the streets.

There are some eye-catching statistics, notably that four out of five stop and searches results in no further action. In West Yorkshire, Irish people are most likely to be stopped, and in North Yorkshire black and Asian people are more common targets.

The police must not have their hands tied over this. It is a vital weapon in their armoury for detecting and preventing crime, and we must not forget that these figures are released at a time when the threat of terrorism is very real.

Yesterday, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, revealed that five major terrorist plots had been disrupted in the past 12 months. The police make the valid point that stop and search can help to foil such plots.

There is a fine line between stop and search being an effective weapon against crime or terrorism, and it overstepping the mark into unfairly targeting the innocent which is also a waste of police time.

A balance needs to be struck, and the publication of these figures is a valuable step towards doing so by giving a clear picture of what the police are doing and allowing a sensible assessment of what stop and search is achieving.

Rates on hold

Interest rise looming

THE decision of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee not to increase interest rates effectively postpones any rise for the rest of this year.

That is a mixed blessing. For those paying mortgages, it means there will be no hike in their monthly payments, but for savers – especially older people who rely on income from a nest egg – the prospect of very low returns continues.

The MPC’s decision underlines that the economic recovery needs to be managed with the utmost care, and it is taking place against an uncertain global backdrop.

The oil price remains depressed, and economic turmoil both in China and the eurozone are all factors in the MPC’s cautious approach. And as the MPC was meeting, the Office for National Statistics revealed that the manufacturing sector, which it had been hoped would play a central role in the recovery, remains flat.

The news that interest rates will remain on hold this month at 0.5 per cent, where they have remained for more than six years, is not a great surprise.

However, the first split vote for two years in the MPC over the issue is an indication that the debate about when the time is right is growing more vigorous, with economists believing that spring next year is the most likely.

What is certain is that a rise grows ever closer with each month and that the era of unprecedented low rates is coming to a close.

When it does come, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s pledge that it will be in gradual increments will reassure mortgage payers that there will be no severe financial shocks, but equally that offers little comfort to savers.

All bets are off

Bake Off blighted by leak

IS nothing sacred? Can it really be that dark forces of greed and corruption can reach into the snow-white marquee of a much-loved British institution?

So it would appear after it was revealed that betting on the eventual winner of BBC1’s The Great British Bake Off had been suspended after a flurry of suspiciously large stakes had been put on a particular competitor.

What a shame it is that people would attempt to use insider information to profit from a programme enjoyed by millions, especially one that is characterised by a generosity of spirit.

There is always a risk of this sort of thing happening in a competitive show that is pre-recorded, especially one with such a big following as this, and doubtless the BBC will be cracking down on leaks.

At least the heavily-backed competitor has not been named. For if the enjoyment of millions was spoiled for the rest of the series by knowing the winner that really would be a shame.