Augmented Stop and Search Powers Proposed to Target Drone Misuse
Planned legal changes would expand the reasons for carrying out stop and searches on drone operators suspected of illegal activity.
A public consultation has been launched in response to shifting crime patterns, an increase in the incidences of acid attacks, and the misuse of both drones and laser pointers.
The proposed new laws would allow officers to target drone operators suspected of engaging in illegal or dangerous activity. Officers would be able to stop and search a person or vehicle in a public place if they have reasonable grounds for suspecting they will find a drone used to commit an offence under the Navigation Order 2016. Increasingly, drones are being misused for criminal activities such as dropping drugs and other contraband into prisons.
The number of incidents that saw drones coming close to manned aircraft rose to 93 in 2017. Drones are viewed as a security threat to critical and national infrastructure, public places, large events, military bases and other sensitive sites.
Drone Misuse Puts Lives at Risk Says CAA
Mark Swan, director of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said: “Illegally-used drones are a very real safety risk to aircraft, particularly during critical phases of flight, such as takeoff and landing.”
Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, said drones were “putting passengers’ lives at needless risk”, adding: “This needs to be tackled on a number of fronts, but ensuring the police have the powers to stop and search for drone offences is an important one.”
The proposals would see stop and search laws extended to include suspected crimes under the Air Navigation Order 2016 and Prisons Act 1952. Nick Hurd, the policing minister, said of the proposed changes: “The home secretary has been clear that stop and search is a vital and effective policing tool when used correctly. We will always seek to give police the powers they need to crack down on violent crime and bring perpetrators to justice.”
Currently, there is new proposed drone legislation in the Commons that could see drone users who flout drone regulations face unlimited fines and possible prison sentences. The new legislation would also ban all drones from flying within one kilometre of an airport.
Stop and Searches Declined in 2017 Due to Controversy
The proposed changes would also see enhanced stop and search powers for people suspected of aiming laser pointers at manned aircraft and for carrying acid for criminal activity. The number of acid attacks, which are cause devastating life altering injuries, is at an all time high in the UK. The proposed changes could potentially cut this number significantly.
In 2017, stop and searches were at their lowest since current data records started in 2001/02. This technique has repeatedly garnered negative coverage and has been criticised for racial profiling, which saw ethnic minorities unfairly targeted.
As a result, in 2014 the then home secretary Theresa May introduced reforms to ensure stop and search was used in a more targeted method. However, some senior officers have drawn a link between the dramatic decline in stop and searches with the rise in violent crime. They say that criminals are emboldened to carry weapons in the belief they will not be detected and equally officers are afraid of being accused of racism so hold back from preforming such searches.