Monday, May 28, 2007

Making It Up As They Go Along

The body language has it- Home Office minister McNulty in listening mode

Lyin', cheatin', hurtin'... but most of all, mind numbingly, hog wimperingly incompetent.

It turns out that they're proposing to introduce their new stop and search powers without even consulting the police who will have to implement them. All too predictably, it further turns out that the police don't actually want them.

How stupid is that?

As regular readers of BOM may recall, Tyler is something of an expert on Stop and Search. In fact he's had three stop and searches in the last six months (eg see this blog). As an unprofilable white middle aged bloke with grey hair and specs who might easily be mistaken for an Islamic terrorist, he was naturally supportive of such a patently sensible use of police time. But he's since talked to non-white acquaintances who are somewhat less supportive.

In fact, most people who have looked into existing police powers in this area (s44 of the 2000 Terrorism Act) think they are already too extensive. For example, last December, one expert said:

"It is very unlikely that a terrorist is going to be carrying bomb-making equipment around... in the street." It was "a big price to pay" given some people feel unfairly targeted... the powers were well intended, "to try and prevent, deter and disrupt terrorist activity. But we have to question the way we use a power that causes so much pain to the community we serve but results in so few arrests or charges. Is it worth it?"

Shami Chakrabarti? No. That was Andy Hayman, the Metropolitan Police's assistant commissioner responsible for anti-terrorism. And he was commenting on the fact that while thousands of s44 stop and searches have been carried out, virtually nothing useful has come out of them. We noted the latest official stats:

"In the year 2002/3, police in England and Wales conducted 21,577 stops and searches in under Terrorism Act powers. Whereas 13 per cent of stops and searches under normal police powers resulted in an arrest, the arrest rate for stops and searches on suspicion of terrorism was just 1.7 per cent. And the overwhelming majority of these arrests had nothing to do with terrorism. Only eighteen arrests in connection with terrorism were made in that year as a result of the 21,577 stops and searches carried out. None of these arrests resulted in a conviction for terrorist offences."

So wtf does our blithering government believe that more of the same is going to help?

Setting aside the very real possibility that it's all actually nothing more than headline management (which has now gratifyingly blown up in their faces), the explanation is only too clear. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, these clowns still believe they know best.

Best when they're boldest. Even when they haven't the faintest clue how their top-level arm waving might translate into practical results out in the Real World (cf the GPs OOH fiasco, the HIPs fiasco, etc etc).

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