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Home Secretary says stop and search can be used to 'confront' acid attacks

Amber Rudd says government has given 'police the powers they need'

Stop and search powers must be used to "confront" the rise in acid attacks, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said.

She also gave her backing to police officers using the controversial checks to deal with other offences, but only if used correctly.

Overall use of the powers decreased in 2015/16, with fewer than 400,000 stop and search procedures conducted by police in England and Wales.

Ms Rudd said the effective use of stop and search was not a question of numbers - and rejected a return to less targeted stop and search checks, but backed officers who used the tactic appropriately.

She said: "This includes using stop and search to confront the use of acid as an appalling weapon of violence.

"It is a vital tool to keep the public safe, and officers who use the power correctly should have the full support of the public and their commanding officers.

"I want to be crystal clear - we have given the police the powers they need and officers who use stop and search appropriately, with reasonable grounds and in a targeted and intelligence-led way, will always have my full support."

Ms Rudd indicated last month that acid attack convictions could soon carry life sentences to ensure those using noxious liquids as a weapon "feel the full force of the law".

The proposal was part of a wider strategy designed to crack down on attacks following a spate of high-profile incidents, including several assaults in London.

Prime Minister Theresa May, while Home Secretary, overhauled the powers which allow officers to stop and search people if they have "reasonable grounds" to suspect they are carrying items such as drugs, a weapon, stolen property or something which could be used to commit a crime.

Official figures from 2015/16 showed black people were more than six times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than whites.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick said the ability for officers to use stop and search was "an extremely important power when properly used".

She added: "Our job as police is to protect people, prevent crime and bring offenders to justice.

"We carry out operations to look for knives. We put up portable metal detectors in the street. We tackle the drugs trade that sucks in young people to criminal lives.

"And yes, we do stop people and search people when we have reasonable grounds to suspect they may be carrying knives, other weapons (eg acid) or drugs."