May ready to retreat on stop and search

Theresa May won approval for a watering-down of the police's stop-and-search powers in her speech to Conservative party members in Manchester this afternoon.

The home secretary is set to cut back the controversial and divisive policy with a change in approach at the end of the year, following a public consultation over the summer.

She told party delegates gathered at the Tory autumn conference that the Conservatives "cannot ignore public concern" about whether it is being used fairly.

Only about nine per cent of stop-and-searches result in an arrest, May said. Those who are black or from an ethnic minority are up to seven times more likely to be stopped and searched.

"When stop and search is misused, it wastes police time," May said.

"And when it's used unfairly, it does enormous damage to public trust in the police… today in this hall I want to send out a message: nobody should ever be stopped just on the basis of the colour of their skin."

Police forces in England and Wales may be less pleased by the move, which is being pushed through at a time of 20% budget cuts imposed by the Home Office.

May had extended the length of the public consultation on the issue by nearly six weeks. It closed last week instead of on August 13th.

Some police forces have arrest rates of just three per cent, which the home secretary has described as "far too close for comfort".

Stop-and-search takes police officers a total of 312,000 hours each year – the equivalent of 145 full-time police officers.

May also used her speech to the autumn conference to pledge to ensure those who murder police officers spend the rest of their lives in prison.

But she said "we must be ruthless in purging wrongdoing from the ranks" and announced the establishment of a national register of officers who have been struck off.