Police are carrying out more stop and searches across Hertfordshire, new figures have revealed. 

Home Office data shows there were 7,921 stop and searches carried out in the year to March under section one of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Pace) in England and Wales - up from 7,098 the year before.

The powers allow police to search people and vehicles for things like drugs or a weapon without a warrant.

Most of the searches by police in the county were looking for drugs - 62 per cent - with a further 13 per cent for offensive weapons.

Meanwhile, police forces across England and Wales carried out the highest number of stop and searches in seven years, with the figure rising by more than 50 per cent in 12 months to 558,973.

This is the most since 2013-14, despite data from Greater Manchester Police not being included because of ongoing technology problems.

The Home Office report said the Metropolitan Police in London accounted for half of the increase in the number of stops and searches in the latest year.

The latest figures also show that out of 18,081 s60 stop and searches carried out, some 255 people were found to be carrying offensive weapons.

The searches led to 698 arrests, with 187 of those for offensive weapons.

Last year the Home Office rolled back restrictions on the s60 tactic as part of a bid to crack down on knife crime and violence, which some critics branded “controversial”.

The powers, which can be in force for up to 48 hours, give police the right to search people in a defined area during a specific time period when they believe serious violence will occur.

Officers can look for weapons before they can be used, or those used in a recent attack and do not need “serious grounds for suspicion if serious violence is anticipated”, only a reasonable belief that a disturbance “may” occur.

The majority of stop and searches under both Pace and s60 powers (76 per cent or 437,139 out of 577,054) resulted in no further action being taken, a similar proportion to the previous year (73 per cent).

People from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were stopped at a rate of 4.1 times higher than those who were white, a similar rate to the previous year (4.3), the report added.

The figures prompted Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey to reiterate calls for the Government to abolish the “suspicionless” s60 powers by backing the Police Stop and Search (Repeal) Bill.

He branded the powers a “waste of police time” and said it “does not work to stop crime” but added that stop and search could be used “fairly and effectively” if it was intelligence-led.

A Home Office spokesman said stop and search was a “vital tool” for taking weapons off the streets and preventing deaths, adding that more than “11,000 knives, firearms and other weapons” were removed in 2019/20.