Theresa May should rethink “catastrophic” stop and search reforms amid rising knife crime, according to Labour and Conservative Yorkshire MPs

MPs have called on Theresa May to rethink her reforms to police stop and search powers amid a spike in knife crime.
MPs have called on Theresa May to rethink her reforms to police stop and search powers amid a spike in knife crime.
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Theresa May must rethink her “catastrophic” reforms to police stop and search powers because they have contributed to a spike in knife crime in both London and Yorkshire, MPs have said.

Labour and Conservative MPs in the region urged the Prime Minister to take action with stabbings in England at their highest level in seven years and an outcry over the 50 murders that have taken place in London this year.

They stressed knife crime is also rising in Yorkshire, blaming cuts to police and the PM’s decision while home secretary in 2014 to make it harder for officers to use stop and search, amid concerns around unfair targeting of black and minority ethnic people.

Labour MPs Holly Lynch and Gill Furniss stressed that minority ethnic families, often the parents of victims, have been calling for stop and searches to be stepped up, while Conservative MP Philip Davies said Mrs May should not allow more people to be killed “on the back of some politically correct shibboleth”.

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Police recorded 3,460 knife or sharp object offences in Yorkshire in the year to March 2017, up from 2,803 the previous year, with the increases mainly coming in West Yorkshire (more than 400 extra offences), and South Yorkshire (just under 300), Commons library research published last month showed.

Over the same period, West Yorkshire Police carried out 25% fewer stop and searches, while there were 39% fewer in South Yorkshire, according to the Stop Watch monitoring group.

Halifax MP Ms Lynch said she had witnessed officers in West Yorkshire and London try hard to “negotiate the pressures” around skin colour and appropriate grounds for stop and search as part of her work with the police parliamentary scheme.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “The reality is we know that it’s predominantly more young black men who are the victims of knife crime.

“And ultimately it’s the parents of those young men who are asking us when they have been victims of knife crime, why wasn’t more done around stop and search to intervene and take those knives off the street in the first place.”

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Mr Davies said: “Maybe the decision was done for the right reasons but manifestly it has been a catastrophic mistake and in any other walk of life, in any business world when you make a mistake you change it.

“It used to be that politics is the only area where you keep ploughing on with the same mistake.

“I’m not prepared to see more and more people unnecessarily lose their life due to knife crime just on the back of some politically correct shibboleth.”

Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough MP Gill Furniss, who recently held a knife crime roundtable, said Somali mothers in her constituency have told South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings they wanted to see stop and search stepped up.

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“They feel it might stop their young men from carrying knives but if it’s done appropriately and sensitively,” she said.

“This isn’t a London thing and apparently it’s a trend throughout Europe and globally.”

Dr Billings himself told Home Secretary Amber Rudd during a knife crime roundtable last month that there was an increase in young men carrying knives where officers had been told to use stop and search less.

A Home Office spokesman said the Government had already consulted on new laws to restrict the use of weapons and had developed a serious violence strategy to work with young people, including £1m to help communities tackle knife crime alongside an ad campaign.

He said: “All forms of violent crime are totally unacceptable. This Government is taking action to restrict access to offensive weapons as well as working to break the deadly cycle of violence and protect our children, families and communities.”