NEW controls to reduce the number of people being stopped and searched by police in Essex are being introduced today.

Officers will still be able to stop people, using powers given to them by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, but their right to do so where they have no evidence of an offence having taken place is being restricted.

Essex Police wants to improve stop to arrest ratios and will publish information so the public can see how often searches lead to further action.

At the moment officers often stop and search people when they believe an offence may have been committed and the people they are stopping match the descriptions of the alleged offenders.

They can also stop people even where there is no suspicion but, under this new scheme, a chief officer has to authorise the powers and in cases where the chief officer anticipates serious violence they must believe the violence will take place rather than just may take place.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:"Nobody wins when stop and search is misused, it can be an enormous waste of police time and damage the relationship between the public and police.

"That is why I am delighted Essex Police will from today reform their use of stop and search powers under the new best use of stop and search scheme.

"It will increase transparency, give us a better understanding of how stop and search is actually being used and help local communities hold the police to account for their use of the powers."

Assistant Chief Constable Julia Wortley, from Essex Police, said: "Stop and search is an invaluable tool for detecting and preventing crime and helping to keep communities safe.

"However it is apparent that we could be doing more to help people in Essex understand how we use stop and search and allow them the opportunity to challenge our approach, if necessary.

"Officers receive detailed training about stop and search legislation and the importance of using these powers only when there is lawful justification.

"These changes should help ensure that Essex Police continues to use stop and search only when necessary and give communities a greater voice in our use of the powers."