Norfolk police has the worst figures for stop-and-searches of any force in the country, it can be revealed, with a third made without 'reasonable' cause.

An analysis of the Constabulary's data also shows black people were more than five times more likely to be subjected to a search than white people.

Just 66.5pc of the force’s stop searches in 2021 had proper justification recorded by officers, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found. 

Among the other 28 forces inspected this year the average was 86.5pc.

The only lower current score on record across England and Wales’ 43 forces was North Yorkshire Police’s 63pc, dating from an inspection carried out in 2018. A spokeswoman said that quality assurance checks of every stop and search had since been introduced.

Eastern Daily Press: HMICFRS data reveals Norfolk's performance is a considerable outlier. Where most recent figures date from the 2018/19 PEEL reports data is in greyHMICFRS data reveals Norfolk's performance is a considerable outlier. Where most recent figures date from the 2018/19 PEEL reports data is in grey (Image: Joel Adams)

Norfolk Police said footage reviewed from body-worn cameras showed grounds being explained to the person being stopped, but officers were “too often not recording those same grounds on the required paperwork”. A training programme had been introduced to address the issue.

Chief Constable Paul Sanford told the EDP: "We've changed the way that stop and search is recorded, we mandate that officers record it on a digital device which requires them to record more detail than they would ever have been able to do on the form, and all of those get checked by a supervisor and where corrective action is required it goes back to the officer."

Eastern Daily Press: Chief constable of Norfolk Police Paul SanfordChief constable of Norfolk Police Paul Sanford (Image: Denise Bradley)

He said individual mistakes or oversights by officers would not lead to disciplinary action, but added: "Of course I would take action if it was the same officers time and time again making the same errors."

HMICFRS gave Norfolk a “requires improvement” rating in “treating people fairly and with respect” and instructed the force to make sure officers correctly record their grounds for stop and search, adding: “Accurate recording of encounters makes scrutiny possible, both internally (by supervisors and at force level) and externally (by the public).”

Black people 5.5 times more likely to be searched

Analysis of Norfolk Police’s 5,335 stop searches by this newspaper also reveals that in the year ending March 2022, the force stopped and searched around 5.4 white people per 1,000, but 29.6 black people per 1,000.

That means a black person was 5.5 times more likely than a white person to be stopped by an officer demanding they turn out their pockets.

Among the sample of 263 stops analysed by HMICFRS, 23 were of ethnic minority suspects and of those 48pc had no reasonable grounds recorded.

Just over one in 10 of the stop searches led to an arrest, with a total of 581 including 360 for drugs, 70 for offensive weapons, 63 for stolen property and three for firearms possession.

Eastern Daily Press: Gee Cook, chief executive of Norwich refugee and asylum seeker charity New Routes Gee Cook, chief executive of Norwich refugee and asylum seeker charity New Routes (Image: Archant)

Gee Cook, chief executive of New Routes, a refugee and asylum seeker charity in Norwich, said: “We’re aware that those we represent are disproportionately targeted by the police with regard to stop and search, often with absolutely no grounds. 

“This has an impact on our participants’ trust and faith in the police force.”

Habib Kadiri of StopWatch, a charity which campaigns for fair and accountable policing, said: “The question of reasonable grounds worries us.

“Nationwide, HMICFRS has repeatedly found officers stopping individuals not out of legitimate suspicion but for self-generated reasons - which we believe rest on assumptions and hunches.

"These stem from underlying prejudices against certain types of people, and that kind of bias is very difficult to root out, which is why these racial disparities persist.

“When the most common reason for the arrests which do happen is for drugs possession, it appears there are implicit assumptions being made about the kind of person who might have small amounts of cannabis on them, even when these arrests have no impact on violent crime or the supply or drugs into the country. This is a big problem when the vast majority of stops find nothing.

“Norfolk officers have long embodied the most egregious elements of this flawed approach to policing, which may explain why the force’s racial disparity ratios rank among some of the worst in England and Wales, year after year.”

What are Norfolk’s stats and how do they compare?

The force carried out 5,335 stop searches in 2021, of which HMICFRS analysed a sample. 

Inspectors reported: “Of the 263 records we reviewed, 34pc weren’t performed on reasonable grounds, 20pc were considered ‘weak grounds’, 27pc were considered ‘moderate grounds’ and 19pc were performed on ‘strong grounds’.

“The force must improve how officers record the grounds for stop and search or risk the public losing confidence in its use of these powers.”

Eastern Daily Press: HMICFRS called on Norfolk Police to do better at recording reasonable grounds for stop and search casesHMICFRS called on Norfolk Police to do better at recording reasonable grounds for stop and search cases (Image: HMICFRS)

Compared with the last report, Norfolk’s ‘reasonable grounds’ percentage fell from 76.9pc to 66.5pc.

No other force inspected this year recorded reasonable grounds for less than 71pc of stop searches, and 20 of 28 had more than 85pc.

Compared with similar forces in the area, Norfolk Police made more stops per head of population, but other East of England forces had worse racial disparity figures.

Suffolk Police stopped and searched 3,467 white people, 4.9 per 1000, and 364 black people, 35.8 per 1000. HMICFRS found 89.5pc of Suffolk’s 2021 stop and searches had reasonable grounds. 

Cambridgeshire Constabulary stopped and searched just 1,829 white suspects, 3.0 per 1000, and 228 black suspects, 23.4 per 1000. HMICFRS found 80.6pc of incidents had reasonable grounds recorded, a dip from 94pc in 2019 and 2020.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk Police made more stop searches per head of population than most forces in the countryNorfolk Police made more stop searches per head of population than most forces in the country (Image: HMICFRS)

What is stop and search?

British police do not have the right to stop or search an individual without reasonable grounds. No-one can be legally stopped for no reason, or because of their physical characteristics or race, or because they have a criminal record.

An officer must have, and inform the person of, and record, their reasonable suspicion on reasonable grounds that the person is (a) carrying drugs, weapons, or stolen property; or (b) items which could be used to commit a crime, to commit an act of terrorism, or to cause criminal damage.

The reason must be based on facts, information, intelligence or observed suspicious behaviour.

Eastern Daily Press: Officers must have, convey, and record reasonable grounds for a stop and search (stock image)Officers must have, convey, and record reasonable grounds for a stop and search (stock image) (Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images)

Stop and search powers have been controversial since their introduction in 1984, and campaigners have long argued they are applied disproportionately against ethnic minority suspects.

A 2021 report by HMICFRS found that in 2019/20, black, Asian and minority ethnic people were over four times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people; for black people this was almost nine times more likely. 

Nationwide HMICFRS estimated there were no reasonable grounds in 18.3pc of cases across all forces, with a further 25pc performed on weak grounds. 

What do the police say?

A spokeswoman said stop and search was one of the few areas HMICFRS did not find Norfolk Constabulary had improved or maintained performance.

She said: “The inspectors reviewed body worn video of our searches and found them to be at the required standard and with the grounds explained to the person being stopped.

"However in searches undertaken in 2021, officers were too often not recording those same grounds on the required paperwork. We have since introduced a training programme to address this issue.”

She said new technology in use made recording easier for officers and provided better monitoring for supervisors. The force is confident it has improved.

An officer said the force “continues to address racial inequalities through dedicated and focussed training” and that most stop searches were targeted at county lines drug dealing, and many of those searched originated outside Norfolk.

The officer said: “Within this criminality is an over-representation of individuals from black and ethnic minority communities that reflects disparities seen in wider society from criminal justice, education, health, social care and beyond.

“As such, young black people are being stop searched on Norfolk’s streets many of whom are not counted in the census data yet are captured in headline figures around disproportionality in Norfolk.”

Have you been stopped and searched by Norfolk Police? Email