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Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) (Revision of Code A) Order 2022

Volume 826: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2023

Motion to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Order laid before the House on 13 October 2022 be approved.

Relevant document: 15th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, this order was laid in draft before Parliament on 13 October 2022. It will bring into effect a revised code of practice issued under Section 66 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which I shall call “PACE” from now on. This is PACE Code A, which governs the exercise by police officers of powers to stop and search a person without first arresting them. For England and Wales, PACE sets out the core powers of the police to prevent, detect and investigate crime. The exercise of these powers is subject to codes of practice, or PACE codes, which the Secretary of State is required to issue. The PACE codes put in place important procedural safeguards for the public and detainees when the police exercise their powers.

The proposed amendments to PACE Code A, which we are discussing today, relate to police powers to stop and search individuals subject to a serious violence reduction order, which I will refer to henceforth as “SVROs”. Inserted into the sentencing code by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, SVROs are civil orders which give the police powers to stop and search individuals convicted of an offence where a bladed article or offensive weapon was used or was present. Cracking down on knife crime is a priority for the Government, and SVROs are an important part of that crucial endeavour. By increasing the risk of detection, these orders are designed to deter habitual knife carriers from reoffending, as well as to help prevent exploitation into continued criminality, including further weapons carrying.

We must build an understanding of the impact of the new orders, so the issuing of the orders will be piloted in West Midlands, Merseyside, Sussex and Thames Valley police force areas. The pilot will be independently evaluated before a decision is made on rollout of the orders across England and Wales. We have proposed these revisions to PACE Code A to ensure that proper guidance and safeguards on the use of the new stop and search power are in place for the pilot.

The proposed revisions were subject to a statutory consultation, which ran for six weeks; they introduce a new temporary annexe, G, which deals with searches in relation to SVROs. In particular, the code highlights that the power does not require officers to have prior reasonable grounds, but its use must not be based on prejudice; it highlights that searches can be conducted only on those subject to an SVRO, and that officers should seek to confirm the identity of the individual; it outlines that the use of the power, like all other stop and search powers, is discretionary, and that officers will be expected to use their judgment when choosing to conduct searches; it outlines that the new annexe will apply for 24 months, plus an additional six-month transitional period; and it outlines the territorial extent of the use of the powers. While SVROs will be issued only in the pilot police force areas, the stop and search powers will be available across England and Wales.

On concerns around disproportionality and the impact of stop and search on particular communities, our aim is for these orders to enable police to take a more targeted approach, specifically in relation to known weapons carriers. The code of practice is just one of many safeguards in place to ensure the fair and proportionate use of SVROs. The revised code was laid before Parliament together with the draft order and Explanatory Memorandum. Subject to the order being approved, the revised code will come into force on 17 January 2023. I must highlight that this date is not a fixed date for the commencement of the SVRO pilot: we are ensuring that all the appropriate secondary legislation is in place before commencing in early 2023.

Fighting crime and protecting the public are central to the Government’s agenda. I therefore commend the draft order to the House and I beg to move.

Amendment to the Motion

Moved by

At end insert “but that this House regrets that the draft Order does not restrict the powers of police constables to stop and search people without suspicion to those limited geographic areas piloting Serious Violence Reduction Orders, but instead permits all police constables in England and Wales to make use of this power during the time of the pilot.

My Lords, I have tabled my amendment because the concession we reasonably believed we had secured from the Government, to limit new without-suspicion police stop and search powers to specific geographic areas, is not being delivered. As the Minister explained, the Government now want the new police powers to be used throughout England and Wales during the pilot.

As the Minister explained, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 gives the police a new power to stop and search anyone who is subject to a serious violence reduction order, or SVRO, without any reason to suspect that they might be carrying something they should not carry. A court can place a serious violence reduction order on anyone convicted of any criminal offence if they, or anyone they were with at the time of the offence, had a knife on them, whether it was used in the commission of the offence or not. This goes far wider than making it easier for the police to stop and search those convicted of knife crime.

The key to violence reduction is not stop and search, but police and communities working together and turning offenders’ lives around. The former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police said that the police could not arrest their way out of knife crime. The success of such schemes as Operation Trident in London were the result of the police and the black community working together, for example. Having visited projects there, I know that the success of knife crime reduction in Scotland has been based on turning offenders’ lives around, particularly at teachable moments when offenders have themselves been seriously injured.

You are 14 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police if you are black than if you are white, using existing without-suspicion stop and search powers, with about one in every 100 searches resulting in a knife being found. Having such a large number of people being stopped and searched who are not committing any offence, and who the police have no cause to suspect are committing any offence, can lead to a breakdown in relations between the police and communities—one of the keys to successful violent crime reduction. Allowing the police to stop and search an unlimited number of times, without suspicion, someone who has already served their sentence and could well be trying to turn their life around, as these new powers allow, is likely to damage any attempts at rehabilitation. Those in danger of reoffending may see no point in trying to be good citizens when they are being treated by the police as criminals even when they are doing nothing wrong.

When these measures were debated, we believed the new powers could be counterproductive and we told the Government that we were prepared to vote against them, with the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, who led on amendments to this part of the Bill. As a result, the Government agreed to a pilot scheme, geographically limited to a few specific police areas—not court areas, police areas. The pilot scheme would be independently evaluated to establish whether the new powers reduced violent crime in those specific police areas. On that basis, we agreed not to vote against the measures. Following discussion with the police, the Home Office has now agreed to allow the new police without-suspicion stop and search powers to be used throughout England and Wales during the pilot, with the only geographic restriction being to limit the courts that are able to issue SVROs, limited to the specific police areas that were originally agreed.

We made it clear to the Government that it was the new police powers that we objected to, and it was on the basis that they would be limited to certain geographic police areas that we accepted the government concession. It was never discussed, let alone agreed, that the powers of the courts to issues SVROs would be treated separately from the powers of the police to enforce them. As a result, not only have our concerns about the use of these new police powers damaging police/community relations and offender rehabilitation been ignored, but it is difficult to see how the pilot can be effectively evaluated if part of it is limited geographically and the other part is limitless.

There are also practical problems with serious violence reduction orders, such as how police officers are supposed to know that someone is subject to an SVRO, particularly if the power can be exercised over such a wide geographic area, where those subject to them are not likely to be personally known by the officers. Someone innocently walking down the street who is not subject to an SVRO is under no obligation to provide their name and date of birth to the police—the minimum requirement for a check to be made on the police national computer to establish whether they are subject to an SVRO. In that case, can the Minister explain how these orders will work in practice?

The Police Federation, which represents the overwhelming majority of officers likely to use these new powers, was asked to comment on the debate in the other place on this statutory instrument. Among other things, its representative said:

“I imagine we would be deeply concerned about moving away from a form of stop and search that isn’t rooted in ‘Reasonable Grounds’. We could easily make a case that this leaves officers vulnerable to complaint, ‘post stop’, in an area which is already supercharged as an issue in many communities. Reasonable Grounds has a firm legal basis, is tried and tested, and therefore affords reassurance to our colleagues engaged in these stops. The SVRO removes that need … and inadvertently that reassurance. It also strikes me that they are predicated wholly on the stopping officers having prior knowledge of the person being searched, so what happens when this power is used to stop somebody and their identify cannot be confirmed—you then have no reasonable grounds to fall back on, and are potentially left wide open to the ‘you only stopped me because I am black’ allegation. On the face of it, the officers’ only rational [response] if such an allegation came their way would be ‘I believed you were subject to a SVRO’, confirming the allegation [‘that you only stopped me because I am black’] and not ending well when identity has been mistaken.”

That is the view of the representative of rank-and-file police officers: that these powers are likely to place them in jeopardy, particularly if they use them outside the pilot areas where those subject to SVROs are unlikely to be known to the officers carrying out the stop and search. What consultation was there with the Police Federation on these powers?

The Government need to rethink their plans for a pilot scheme. For these reasons, I beg to move the amendment in my name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, I spend my life being furious at the Government, as I am sure some noble Lords will recognise. However, I want to spare a moment of sympathy for the Minister, who has had to bring this to your Lordships’ House. Clearly, this is going back on a promise; the Government are cheating. They are choosing not to honour a promise. That is really rather disgusting, as it shows a complete lack of respect for your Lordships’ House. I really hope that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who has made a brilliant opening speech, will take this to a vote, because clearly we would have voted on these issues before if we had had the chance. We trusted the Government, but this shows that we cannot. That is very depressing because, if you cannot trust your Government, the whole of democracy falls apart.

I am also worried about the fact that the Government are putting the police at a disadvantage. Trust in the police is at an all-time low, and I think these measures will make it much worse. We worry all the time about the police being distrusted. They cannot do their job if they do not have the support of communities. Of course, with this sort of measure, there will be social and racial barriers to implementing it, and there will be disparities about who the police target. The Government are actually making life much harder for the police. There should not be a power to search without reasonable suspicion.

While I am talking about not trusting the Government, I should say that they are also treating peaceful protest like gang and knife crime. I just do not understand why the Government cannot see the difference between those things. Dissent is healthy; it is part of our democracy. In measure after measure and legislation after legislation, it seems to me that this Government are saying, “We don’t like society the way it is. We are going to radically change it”—and make it much worse for the majority of people.

On the issue of knife crime, my Green Party colleague Caroline Russell, who is a member of the London Assembly, has repeatedly asked the police to stop posting pictures of knives on social media, because it makes things worse. The evidence says that young people feel more at risk and that it encourages them to carry knives. There are other measures that the police can use to reduce knife crime. We have to show young people that it is safer for them not to carry a knife.

All in all, I have two questions for the Minister. First, do this Government have absolutely no respect for this House and for democracy? My second and much smaller point is: why on earth are the Government doing this before the pilots are finished? Surely the pilots should show us the way forward. The Government seem very confused about what pilots are for. Why promise a pilot and then go ahead and introduce these measures anyway? I am Disgusted of Lambeth.

My Lords, since the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, spent much of last year calling the Prime Minister of the day a liar on the Floor of your Lordships’ House, I am surprised that she has only just now lost her trust in the Government. That was not my principal point in rising to speak; my point was to express a degree of support for the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. As he at least might recall, when we debated the insertion of serious violence reduction orders in the Sentencing Code during the passage of the then Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill last year, I expressed considerable concern about those orders. Indeed, I recall that in Committee I added my name to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, which raised these issues, principally on the grounds that I am extremely concerned by the increasing use of preventive justice, so to speak, by the Home Office and by police forces empowered by the Home Office, rather than taking coercive action on the basis of proven criminality or wrongdoing.

I have considerable sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, but since we lost that point and the serious violence reduction orders were inserted in the Bill, it is right that the Government should carry out trials before they are extended throughout the whole country. I understand his point, but what is striking to me is that my noble friend the Minister has so far given no indication of what the tests are by which these trials are going to be assessed once they have been completed. What is success going to look like? What would persuade the Government to make amendments or changes or to drop the whole approach if we saw those results emerging from the trials? I hope my noble friend will be able to say something about that when he rises to respond to this short debate.

While I am on my feet, I say that Sections 60 and 61 of the same measure—the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act of last year—empowered the Home Secretary to issue statutory guidance to police forces on the enforcement of what are referred to as “non-crime hate incidents”. This has so far not appeared, despite the fact that my noble friend the Minister very kindly wrote to me last October saying that the Government hoped to table the new statutory guidance before Christmas, or at least before the end of 2022.

When the Minister responds, would he be able to give us a date by which he expects the Home Secretary to put the draft statutory instrument before Parliament, so that we can debate it and get some parliamentary grip on this contentious but very important area of criminal justice?

My Lords, I support broadly targeting those convicted of carrying knives, because it seems to follow the evidence we have. Repeat offenders, repeat locations and repeat victims often disproportionately contribute to the amount of crime, particularly with people who carry knives. Not everybody who is violent carries knives, but those who do repeatedly carry them, so it is not a bad idea to target them. In fact, the obverse of what is being said about without-cause stop/search is that this gives a reason to stop/search—namely, that the person has been convicted in a court of carrying a knife or being associated with somebody carrying a knife.

As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned, the Police Federation of England and Wales objected to this proposal, or at least made some arguments counter to it. I am quite surprised by that, because the arguments it makes are also against Section 60 stop/searches. Section 60 orders are put in place in a certain area to target repeat locations and allow stop/searches to be carried out without cause. A similar dilemma is that nobody knows where these areas are until a police officer stops you and says you are in one, which has always for me been a reason why we should have better ways of communicating those areas to people who may be stopped in them. However, the principle of without-cause stop/search has been there for a long time.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that this is not the answer, but I think it is part of an answer. It seems reasonable to target those who repeatedly carry knives or are likely to carry knives, having been warned by a court that they should not. They have been given an order and told not to, so it is reasonable to check whether they are keeping to that order.

I am not in a position to comment on the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, or the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on whether a promise was made about how this power would be extended, but I imagine that one of the challenges will be with those areas adjacent to the four pilot areas—where the line is drawn on a map according to 1974 local government boundaries and often county boundaries. People who wander between villages across a county line cannot be policed on the other side of it if they have an order in place elsewhere, such as in the place where they live—let us say they are in a village just on the other side of a court boundary. It would be an odd conclusion that the adjacent forces to Sussex, West Midlands, Thames Valley and Merseyside would not be able to police these orders and that, in principle, people could wander over the border, carry a knife and not suffer the same consequences.

I agree that identification is important. Officers should be able to identify the people who have these orders. If they stop them and say, “Who are you?”, they indicate that they do not know the person has an order, but there are ways around that. Markers for ground vehicles can be put on the police national computer. Specific intelligence can be shared if people are wandering between, say, various nightclubs or areas, so that local officers know who they are. That can be managed.

My final point is that I was a little surprised by the selection of the pilot areas and that London was excluded. My experience, having policed in South Yorkshire, Merseyside and London, is that where stop/search has been a problem—and it has been—that has often been in London. Frankly, in the rest of the country, the volume is low and the problem is not of the same nature. If you talk to anybody in Merseyside or South Yorkshire, you just do not hear that this is a particular problem. I am not saying that it is not a problem, but it is not of the order that we see in London.

London has seen the sus laws of the 1960s and Section 44 of the Terrorism Act in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and now Section 60 carries its own problems. When I took over in 2011, we discovered that Section 60 orders had, I am afraid, been scattered like confetti around London and something needed to be done. London’s experience of stop/search has been of stop/search without cause, but it is completely different from the rest of the country, so I wonder how much we can take from the experiments in Merseyside, West Midlands, Thames Valley and Sussex that could carry over easily to the London environment. People may not be persuaded by that. That is something the Government might want to consider as the pilots progress; if London is excluded, the evidence may not be as powerful in future.

My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who made some important and interesting points. I agree with many of them and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

The Chamber will wish to know that we did not oppose the Motion for this pilot in the other place, but there are also important points that I wish to pose to the Minister to add to those made by the noble Lords, Lord Paddick, Lord Moylan and Lord Hogan-Howe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in another sense, in that this also gives us in this Chamber the opportunity to discuss knife crime, which is clearly an important matter.

We are all horrified by knife crime and the horrific murders, sometimes of young people by other young people, in the most shocking of circumstances—in full public view. Can the Minister start by telling us what the latest figures actually tell us with respect to knife crime? I looked for them before this debate, and some are impacted by the pandemic or use different years as a baseline. What are the actual official figures for knife crime and knife-related murder, and not just in London but across the country? Clearly, whatever the figures are, they are too high, and the fundamental question for this debate is how serious violence reduction orders are expected to help. The noble Lord, Lord Moylan, made the point that knife crime prevention orders were backed as the answer to tackle knife crime back in 2019. They have not even started yet. Why is that, and when will they start?

On the issue of disproportionality, the pilot is for two years. However, supposing that problems emerge around disproportionality before the two years—a point the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, made—is there a mechanism for an earlier review within that two-year period to look at data as it emerges? The Minister in the other place says he is open to this. What does that mean: an interim review after, say, six months, or a year? What does the Government being “open to looking at this” mean?

Can the Minister explain the transition period of six months and how that will work in practice? In particular, how will it impact on an individual given such an order as regards its length? Are all orders for only a six-month duration or just those issued on the last day of the two-year pilot, hence the six-month transition period? It is not clear to me at all, because if you are given an SVRO on the last day of the two years, it can last only for a maximum of six months. If you are given it on the first day of the two-year period, can you be given it for two years, or two years and six months, or can you be given it for six months, then another six months and another six months? Some clarity about who can and cannot be given SVROs is needed.

On the issue of territorial extent, the SVROs will be able to be used only in the four areas—the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, made a good point about how the areas were chosen, why certain other areas were not and why the number four was alighted on, and I think the Chamber could do with some explanation of that from the Government. These four areas are the areas where the orders can be given but, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned, the concern is that the police power will be applied across England and Wales. How will the data be shared by these four areas with forces across the country? What about Scotland? If somebody who is subject to such an order went to Scotland, what happens with respect to that? How will a police officer be able to know that the individual is subject to an order? Again, the noble Lord, Lord Hogan- Howe, made that point, although I understand that his point was that you would expect it to be on the police database and shared in that way. However, it would be interesting to see how that will work and what the Government’s response would be.

In other debates, we have talked about stop and search, including whether only a uniformed officer can use this power; again, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has made this point forcefully before. With respect to this order, can only a uniformed officer use this stop and search power—particularly given that, as noble Lords will appreciate, it is stop and search that can be done without suspicion? How many officers have now received the College of Policing training on stop and search, and will they be updated with respect to this order?

On the question of pilots, can the Minister look at ensuring that, if, for whatever reason, a future pilot contains one part that is focused on a small number of areas and another part that is to be applied nationally, this is clearly explained—particularly in this case where, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, have pointed out, this pilot came about as a result of a concession made by the Government because of the concerns about serious violence reduction orders raised by many noble Lords?

Can the Minister say something to inform us how this pilot will be evaluated by Ecorys? How is it going to do that? What criteria is it going to use to determine whether this pilot has been successful? Will it be fully independent of government? Also, are the Government open to the fact that these pilots may fail and not work? In those circumstances, would the Government be prepared to say that they will not carry on with them? The evaluation is particularly important given the concerns around disproportionality with respect to gender and ethnicity. If the evaluation shows that there are problems, the Government should consider other measures.

We all want to tackle knife crime, whatever its level; there is no difference between us on that. There are real issues for us as a society to deal with, as the Minister in the other place said. I want to point out one statistic that the Minister in the other place used so that noble Lords can see how difficult this is, whatever the level of knife crime. He said that

“young black people are 24 times more likely to be murdered using a knife than those from other communities.”—[Official Report, Commons, Ninth Delegated Legislation Committee, 13/12/22; col. 8.]

We all want something to be done about that. We all accept that that figure is too high. The issue for the Government is how on earth knife crime prevention orders are going to tackle that and other issues related to knife crime across the country. Can the Minister say what else the Government are doing to tackle this problem?

We have this new order alongside other orders designed to tackle knife crime and serious violence. We all hope that they work. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and others pointed out, targeting hot spots, having police on the streets in neighbourhoods, prevention, community engagement and support are also crucial. Many lives, often very young ones, are still being lost. Many families are still affected. Many communities are still affected. Orders such as this one may help, but they must be part of a wider ongoing effort by the police and communities if they are to have the impact that we all want.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have made valuable contributions to this debate.

First, I will address the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in relation to the territorial extent of the SVRO pilot. I want to clarify that, as I said earlier, SVROs are being introduced on the basis of a pilot in Merseyside, West Midlands, Sussex and Thames Valley police forces. They will be issued only in these four pilot police force areas. However, as the revised PACE Code A sets out, the stop and search powers are enforceable by all constables across England and Wales; the “all constables” point answers the question of whether they will be in uniform, I think, but obviously they would have to identify themselves as such. This is aimed at supporting an operational response across police force areas, allowing constables from non-pilot forces to stop and search individuals subject to SVROs if they travel outside of the pilot area.

The noble Lords, Lord Hogan-Howe and Lord Coaker, asked why we are piloting in those force areas and not with larger forces, where the prevalence of serious violence—

I am sorry to interrupt; I apologise to the Minister for being rude. I am not clear what he means about whether or not an officer using this stop and search power must be in uniform. This is an extremely important point. I am sorry if it is just me and I did not understand, but I wonder whether the Minister can clarify that point.

That is no problem at all. I will do my best to clarify that by the end of this speech, but as I understand it, it is all constables, which I assume includes those who do not necessarily wear a uniform.

Regarding the territorial extent of the pilot and why we are piloting in these force areas and not larger ones, where the prevalence of serious violence is higher, all four forces that will pilot SVROs are in the 20 areas most affected by serious violence across England and Wales. They accounted for 80% of all hospital admissions for injury with a sharp object, with each individually accounting for 2% or more of admissions, rounded to the nearest percentage point. The West Midlands has the third-highest rate of knife crime in England and Wales, and Merseyside the sixth-highest. The pilot will allow us to build an understanding of the impact and effectiveness of the new orders before deciding whether they should be rolled out nationally to other force areas. I hope that answers the question.

I have heard what the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, had to say on this topic; however, stop and search powers are not enforceable across England and Wales. As the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, noted, individuals subject to SVROs could simply operate outside the pilot areas. The Government held a statutory consultation on the revised code. This issue was discussed at length with key stakeholders, who strongly supported allowing the use of stop and search powers by police constables both within and outside the police force areas. In answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about the Police Federation, it is a member of the PACE board and as such was invited to provide a response. Whether it did, I do not know. Like the proposed approach to SVROs, knife crime prevention orders, which have been referred to, are being piloted in the Metropolitan Police area and can only be issued in that force area. However, the orders are also enforceable across England and Wales.

I stress that this is only a pilot, but we are revising the PACE codes because they outline the fundamental principles of fair and responsible stop and search. We want to ensure that officers have clear guidance on the use of the new powers in the SVRO pilot, including through PACE codes of practice. The search power can only be used against persons who are subject to an SVRO. An individual can be issued with an SVRO only if they are over 18 and have been convicted of an offence involving a bladed article or an offensive weapon, and if the court considers it necessary to make the SVRO to protect the public from the risk of harm involving an offensive weapon or bladed article, or to prevent the offender from further offending involving an offensive weapon or bladed article. Therefore, while the police do not require reasonable grounds for suspicion, it is not an unrestricted stop and search power. The code of practice is clear that the use of the power must not be based on prejudice. The use of the power is discretionary, and officers will be expected to use their judgment when choosing to conduct searches.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked how, if individuals are not legally required to give their identity when stopped by the police, officers will identify those subject to an SVRO. The police will have obtained the offender’s details at the notification stage of an SVRO—there is the requirement for an individual subject of an SVRO to notify the police of their name and address—and they should ensure that any stop and search under the power is targeted at offenders that have a SVRO only. In most cases, it is expected that offenders subject to an SVRO will be known to the police and officers will be able to identify the offender before conducting a search. Where an officer is unsure of an offender’s identity, they should seek to confirm that offender’s identity and whether they have an SVRO before using the stop and search power. It is an offence for an offender to tell a police constable that they are not subject to an SVRO if they are.

The Government fully support the police in the fair use of stop and search to crack down on violent crime and protect communities. The code of practice is one of many safeguards in place to ensure the fair and proportionate use of SVROs. Others include statutory guidance for the police on the use of the power, which we have laid in draft before Parliament, body-worn video, and extensive data collection. Stop and searches carried out using the SVRO power will be subject to the usual internal and external scrutiny panels to ensure that forces are continually reviewing and learning from officer stop and searches.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and my noble friend Lord Moylan asked about the evaluation of the pilot. We of course recognise the need for transparency in how the orders are used, and clear and robust monitoring to reassure communities that the orders are being used appropriately and effectively. The Government are piloting SVROs to build an understanding of their impact before deciding whether they should be rolled out nationally. By definition, that implies that if they do not work and we do not get sufficient data, they will not be continued with.

We have appointed an independent evaluator, Ecorys, to carefully gather the data necessary to assess the impact of these orders. We will lay a report on the outcome of the pilot in Parliament. It is expected in late 2025 and will include an initial assessment of the impact of SVROs on the reoffending rates of offenders in respect of whom such orders have been made; include information about the exercise by constables of the powers; provide an assessment of the impact on offenders of being subject to an SVRO; and assess the impact of SVROs on people with protected characteristics within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. We are also working with the SVRO working group and the National Police Chiefs’ Council to ensure that all forces are aware of the draft statutory guidance on SVROs and the revised PACE Code A.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked me about training. I do not think it is for me to discuss operational matters particularly, but the training is being worked on by the College of Policing. It will be interactive e-learning training and will ensure that officers in pilot areas understand the new civil orders, their responsibilities and the stop and search powers being provided. This learning platform will test officer knowledge, including when it would or would not be appropriate to use the powers.

To sum up, we do not accept that the availability of the stop and search powers across England and Wales for individuals subject to an SVRO warrants the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. The rationale behind the approach we are taking is clear and sensible, and there are strong safeguards in place. Ultimately, we have a responsibility to tackle crime and keep people safe, and that is and will continue to be a key priority for the Government.

I welcome the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, mentioned victims; I will go into some detail on the statistics. The latest police-recorded crime figures published by the ONS for the year ending June 2022 show that knife-enabled crime remained 9% lower—that is, 49,991 offences—than pre-coronavirus pandemic levels; in the year ending March 2020, the figure was 55,076. Police-recorded offences of possession of an article with a blade or point were 9% higher in the year ending June 2022, at 25,287 offences, than the year ending March 2020, when there were 23,242 offences. That is a 13% increase. The police recorded 679 homicide offences in the year ending June 2022, which is a 5% decrease compared with the year ending March 2020. Levels have increased by 13% since the year ending June 2021, during which social restrictions were still in place.

I understand the concerns around disproportionality and the impact of stop and search, particularly on black individuals. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has just mentioned, we should not forget that, according to the most recent studies, young black people are 24 times more likely to be victims of homicide than young white people. That is a tragedy. Young people are dying, their families are suffering and their communities are being disproportionately impacted. I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker: we absolutely have to do better. I go back to the point I made earlier: to be absolutely clear, an individual must have been convicted of an offence where a bladed article or offensive weapon was used or was present to receive an SVRO, and the stop and search power applies only where an individual has an SVRO.

I will read out a supportive quote from Patrick Green, CEO of the Ben Kinsella Trust. As a reminder, Ben was knifed to death at the age of 16 in 2008; he would now have been entering his 31st year. Patrick said:

“We are pleased that the Government is setting out to do more to take knives and those who choose to persistently carry them off our streets. Reoffending rates have been one of the scourges of knife crime. SVROs give us a chance to look again at stop and search and what more can be done in the courts to reduce offending.”

That very powerful statement speaks for itself.

The policy detail of SVROs was discussed at length during passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. As mentioned, they will be piloted and we will conduct a full evaluation before any further rollout.

My noble friend Lord Moylan went slightly off topic when he asked me about non-crime hate incidents. I will endeavour to answer. The Home Secretary has asked officials to consider the issue of NCHI recording to ensure that the police are using their time most effectively. This work is currently under way and includes consideration of whether the Home Secretary will publish a code of practice on non-crime hate incident recording, as provided for in Sections 60 and 61 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.

In closing, I offer again my thanks to all noble Lords who contributed to this short debate. I hope that I have covered the points raised during it. There is one that I have not: I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on the subject of uniforms; I cannot clarify that at this precise moment. I hope the House will feel sufficiently reassured that the changes we are making to PACE Code A are a necessary safeguard to have in place before commencement of the pilot scheme for SVROs. I have made it clear that public safety is our foremost concern. I therefore commend the order to the House.

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I did not hear an answer to my two questions. I do not expect one as to whether the Government respect democracy because I know the answer to that, but my other question was about the pilot scheme. Why promise a pilot and then do the whole rollout?

I am not entirely sure that I understand the noble Baroness’s question. If you are going to have a pilot you have to roll it out, surely.

We have not actually started the pilot and we are not rolling it out. It is stuck to four pilot areas. We are talking about the territorial extent of the stop and search powers.

I am very grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions to the debate, particularly those who supported my amendment.

The Minister has completely glossed over the whole point of the regret amendment, which is that a concession was made by a government Minister at the Dispatch Box to limit SVROs to specific police areas. There was no mention of restricting only the issuing of SVROs, rather than their enforcement, at that time. It was never even considered, let alone agreed to. What has happened is this. The Home Office has consulted the police—what the Government called “key stakeholders”; I think the Minister means the police, as that is who they consulted—and the police said, “Hang on a minute, we need the power across all of England and Wales because these criminals travel”. That may or may not be a valid argument, but it was not what the Minister promised from the Dispatch Box. That is the point and that is why there is a regret amendment, but I do not intend to delay the House further because there is a big debate to come. I therefore wish to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to the Motion withdrawn.

Motion agreed.