by RAY FLEMING
Is one of Britain's most hated laws about to make a reappearance? Next week a report on reducing bureaucracy in the police by Sir Ronnie Flanagan, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, is expected to recommend the abolition of the existing system whereby police who conduct a stop and search operation have to complete a long form which establishes the circumstances for the record. This procedure was introduced after many complaints, especially by black communities, that the police tended to stop and search on the basis of mere suspicion (hence the “sus” law) or even on a whim. The random use of this power, based on an Act introduced in 1824, was often quoted as a cause of racial unrest or riots. It is probable that in future patrolling police will be equipped with palm-held devices to punch in key details of a stop and search without having to complete long written reports. They will still need to have “reasonable suspicion” before stopping and questioning anyone but the back-up of a written report will disappear and therein lies the anxiety that something close to unsupported “sus” will reappear on Britain's streets. There is a difficult balance to be struck: on the one hand the police certainly need to spend less time licking their pencils and laboriously writing reports but on the other the right of the citizen to walk the streets without being arbitrarily stopped and searched also needs to be preserved.