Jan 28, 2013

Students don gown & wigs as they pass judgement on stop & search

Students from Petchey Academy donned gowns and wigs as they passed judgment on the use of stop-and-search during a workshop on the controversial tactic.

The mock trial was part of a programme ran by the Stop and Search Legal Project, a group of volunteer lawyers based in Hackney, to teach young people their rights while being stop-and-searched and how best to avoid unnecessary arrests.

The students, on a mentoring programme organised by Hackney-based ReachOut!, argued that stop-and-search was racist and a waste of police time while others said it helped take weapons off the streets and made communities feel safer.

The workshop also included a fun play exploring the potential consequences of reacting calmly or aggressively to a police stop.

Werner Mabiaole, 16, who is in his final year at Petchey Academy, said: “It was good to learn how you should think about stop-and-search, how the police should behave and how we should react, for example no swearing if you don't want to get arrested. Young people see stop-and-search as a way of going to prison, especially if it hasn't happened to them before.”

Police in Hackney stop more than 35 people a day, on average, with around 11 per cent leading to arrests. However, according to the Metropolitan Police's own statistics 47 per cent of arrests are 'unclassified' including public order offences.

Lawyers from SSLP say some of these arrests are caused by people reacting angrily to being stopped or to the police taking an aggressive approach.

Molly Mulready-Jones, director of SSLP, said: “Young people can feel harassed by stop-and-search, but they should remember it's not voluntary, so they should stay calm and let the police do their job. However, you do not have to give your name unless you are being arrested and you should demand a record of the stop-and-search should you wish to complain later.”

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