police drone

Police stop and search powers could be extended to tackle drone use

The Home Office is consulting on proposals to bolster stop and search powers in order to allow police to be more rigorous in dealing with people who intend to use drones for illegal or disruptive purposes in the UK.

The number of incidents of drones coming close to manned aircraft, which has potentially catastrophic consequences, rose to 93 in 2017.

Critical national infrastructure, sensitive sites, defence establishments, large-scale events and crowded public places face a potential threat of criminal or hostile drone activity, the Home Office said.

The department also highlighted growing concerns over lasers being pointed at aircraft, with more than 1,000 reported instances annually since 2010.

Under the proposals, 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 Air Navigation Order 2016.

A similar power would be available in cases where police suspect they will discover a laser pointer used to commit the newly created offence of shining or directing a beam at a vehicle, thereby dazzling or distracting the person in control.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid backed a boost in the use of stop and search weeks after his appointment.

The proposals also include additional powers to search people suspected of carrying corrosive substances such as acid in order to carry out malicious attacks.

In the year to March 2017, police in England and Wales carried out 303,845 stops and searches - the lowest number since current data records started in 2001/02.

The tactics have repeatedly attracted controversy, amid criticism they unfairly focused on black and minority ethnic individuals.

Reforms were introduced in 2014 by then home secretary Theresa May to ensure stop and search was used in a more targeted way.

Mark Swan, director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Illegally-used drones and lasers are a very real safety risk to aircraft, particularly during critical phases of flight, such as take-off and landing.

“Laws are now in place to protect aircraft from both drones and laser pointers, and we support efforts by the police to enforce these laws.”

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.”

Earlier this year an industry expert cautioned that he expected terrorists to start using drones to launch attacks on British soil. 

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