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Hattie’s Citizenship Work

A fabulous piece of work from Hattie here. She was asked to research an area of law that is current in the news, for her work in Citizenship, where we are currently studying the law and how it works.

Citizen Home School work by Hattie MacKenzie.

I have been following the recent story in the news about a female black sprinter called Bianca Williams and her Portuguese partner Ricardo Dos Santos.

Both of these are Athletes, with Bianca a Gold Medallist Commonwealth champion. They are trained by Linford Christie the Ex Olympic champion and they live in London in an area called Maida Vale with their 3-month-old son.

On July the 4th , Dos Santos was driving his black Mercedes car back to their home after a training session, Williams and their son were in the back of the car.

When they got near to their house, the police stopped them by putting on their blue lights in their van behind them and causing them to stop. The Police then surrounded the car and made Dos Santos get out of the car, handcuffing him and then Williams was also handcuffed and forced out of the car so that the Police could search their car.

Williams had her mobile phone with her and I watched the footage of the stop of the car and how the Police acted towards the couple.

The search the Metropolitan Police have said was carried out under PACE which stands for Police And Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the grounds were under Section 1 of PACE for the following reasons.

They had reasonable grounds of suspicion that they were in possession of illegal drugs, weapons, stolen property or something used to commit a crime.

In order for them to have reasonable grounds of suspicion the Met have said that the Officers had seen the car acting suspiciously, that it had sped off from the Police van and it was seen on the wrong side of the road, they also said that the area of Maida Vale was high crime area and they were patrolling to tackle gangs of youths who were committing violent acts.

I have not seen any video evidence on line from the Police Officers car or from their body worn cameras that show the car acting in a suspicious way, So I cannot see their reasons and suspicions. Williams refuses those accusations and states that they were finding a place to park on the one-way road so moved across the road legally finding a place to park.

What did shock me was the phone video from Williams, one Police Officer is seen asking the driver to get out of the car with his baton drawn in a very aggressive manor, The Officers are also reaching into the car and taking hold of Williams hand and trying to get her out of the car away from their son which is distressing her.

The female Police Officer does tell Williams why they are doing what they’re doing which legally they have to do, they have to tell the person their names or collar number, what station they are from and under what law they are stopping and searching them or their car and how they can get a paper copy of the search. However there is so much going on and Williams is in shock and scared so it seems all very scary and hectic and seems that she does not hear the Officer.

I was lucky enough to be able to talk to PC 699 HOGG from Northamptonshire Police Force to get some information about this stop. He told me that he believes that a combination of a high crime area, recent protests and riots and also the car being seen driven apparently away from the Police van contributed towards the reason it was stopped. He told me that most cars have ANPR Automatic Number Plate Recognition in them and so it should have read the number plate which may have shown them that the car was legally registered and that there was nothing about the car on their Intelligence system (which all forces hold information of cars and people when they are involved in crime). So if this was the case they would have no reason to suspect the car is involved in crime or had weapons in the car, He said that stopping a car with your baton out would only happen if you had intelligence to suggest that the people in the car were violent and carried weapons, but this is quite rare and if the people are in the car and the vehicle stopped they are not a threat until they get out so then you could draw the baton if you felt threatened.

He said that sometimes he had to do stops on cars where the intelligence was very high on the people and they had to be quick and dynamic to control the situations smashing widows and dragging people out and if I saw it I may think the Police were being violent without knowing why. He also said that people hide drugs in their clothing, swallow them or hide them in other places and if they don’t control their hands quickly evidence is sometimes lost.

But he agreed with me that this stop did not have that information and did look unnecessary and that it did show the Police as looking aggressive.

PC 699 HOGG gave me some information and examples of what information the Police are given that members of the public like me are not told, and so everything we see or read about may have more information and reasons why things are done that I don’t understand.

So I do understand that the media can show pictures or videos without all this information and make things look and sound a lot worse than what I see, so it was nice to listen and learn from him to give a better understanding of how the news can be reported and what facts and details can often be left out.

So in conclusion, I do agree Police should have the power to stop and search people if they have good evidence to suggest they’re committing a crime and that they are trying to keep the public safe but I disagree with this stop and search and feel that the Police may have been prejudice against the young couple for driving a nice car with blacked out windows and for being black and that the Police may have over reacted due to the recent events that had happened and maybe did not follow the correct guidelines set out on this particular stop.

The incident has been forwarded to a review panel to see if the Officers actions were justified, and I will be following the story to see what the outcome is.