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David Lammy says police stop and search is 'unjust' and 'entertains a racist fantasy'

The i logo The i 14/10/2018 Serina Sandhu
David Lammy wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

David Lammy has labelled the police practice of stop and search "racially unjust", saying it is disproportionately used to target black people.

The "systematic profiling of black and ethnic minority groups" meant they lost faith in the authorities designed to protect them, the Labour MP for Tottenham said.

Writing in the Observer, Mr Lammy recalled being "frisked, groped and harassed by the police" when he was 12 years old because officers said he matched the description of a mugger.

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"Many years later, the fear and embarrassment of the time I was stopped and searched for a crime I did not commit remains with me. Speaking to young black men in my constituency and looking at the statistics, it's clear nothing has changed," he wrote.

'Profound racial injustice'

Statistics show black people in England and Wales are almost nine times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched for drugs. This represented a "profound racial injustice," said Mr Lammy.

"Grounded in the fictitious narrative that drug use is especially prevalent among black and minority ethnic groups, the current practice of stop and search entertains a racist fantasy.

David Lammy wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

By pandering to the right of his party, Sajid Javid risks deepening society's divides

David Lammy

"As we speak, there will be young, white middle-class men smoking a joint at a campus university or having cocaine delivered to their dinner parties, but the police will be nowhere in sight."

"Instead of relying on this ineffectual and racially unjust practice, we must stop stigmatising black men and search for more intelligent, long-term solutions to the problems that foster criminal activity in the first place," he wrote.

Mr Lammy said that while Theresa May, as home secretary in 2014, was committed to reducing stop and search, the current Home Secretary wanted to expand its use.

'Ignoring the evidence'

"Why is Sajid Javid ignoring the evidence? By pandering to the right of his party, he risks deepening society's divides," said the Labour politician.

The joint study by the Stopwatch coalition, drug law experts Release and the London School of Economics and Political Science found that by 2016/17, black people were stopped and searched at 8.7 times the rate of white people for drugs, and 7.9 times the rate of white people for other offences.

a person wearing a green shirt © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

The report also found that black people were treated more harshly when found in possession of drugs.

Concerns over the controversial practice of stop and search have been raised by politicians and activists. Labour MP Rupa Huq told Channel 4 News in August it was damaging relations between certain communities and the police.

But former Met officer Peter Kirkham denied police were stopping people on the basis of colour. “Stop and search is an essential tool for police officers on the streets to maintain safe public space for everybody," he told the same programme.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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