What is stop and search?
The police have a right and a duty to stop and talk to members of the public and in certain circumstances to search them. This is done in order to help keep the public safe, and is used to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, and to prevent terrorism.
Under most circumstances police need grounds to search you, but some stop and search powers allow you to be searched without grounds, for example, if you are in an area where there is a risk of serious violence or disorder.
Stop and search normally takes place in public places such as the area around football stadiums when there's a match playing or in neighbourhoods experiencing problems with crime or vandalism.
This doesn't mean they just happen in these places. Stop and searches can take place anywhere at any time.
If you do something that results in police involvement (for example, if you're arrested for a suspected crime) or if you're stopped and searched in the street, you need to understand it is your right that the police treat you fairly and with respect at all times.
The police must follow the rules set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) codes, which outline how we have to treat you, and what rights you have. For example, if you have been arrested you have the right to speak with a solicitor and to let a family member or friend know that you’ve been arrested.
You won't be stopped and searched just because of your:
- Ethnic background
- Because you have committed a crime in the past.
British Transport Police created a useful video, below, which shows why and how police officers sometimes need to 'Stop and Search'.
The police can stop and search you for other reasons including:
- As part of the anti-terrorism efforts
- If there has been serious violence or disorder in the area
- If the police are looking for a suspect who fits your description
- If the police have reasonable grounds to suspect your carrying drugs, a weapon or stolen property.
Police must conform with clear rules when using stop and search:
- The Police must use the search powers fairly, responsibly and with respect for people without discriminating
- The Police must make sure that the search time is kept to a minimum
- The Police do not have the power to stop you, in order to find a reason for a search
It is important to know that being stopped does not mean that you are under arrest or that you have necessarily done something wrong.
- If you are stopped, you are required to stay for the duration of the search. If necessary you will be prevented from walking away
- The search must take place near to where you were stopped, except on occasions where moving you would protect your privacy
- If you are in a public place, you only have to take off your coat or jacket and any gloves that you are wearing, unless you have been stopped in relation to terrorism or where Cheshire Police believe you are using clothes to hide your identity
- If it is necessary to take off more than this or any items that you wear for religious reasons (such as a face scarf, veil or turban) you will be taken somewhere out of public view for your own privacy. This does not mean that you are being arrested. In cases such as this, the police officer who searches you will be the same sex as you.
- You will be given a form to take away that outlines the reason you were searched.
The College of Policing Professional Committee has recently approved an amendment to the definition of a 'fair and effective' search. The wording now reads as follows:
A stop and search is most likely to be fair and effective when:
- The search is justified, lawful and stands up to public scrutiny
- The officer has genuine and objectively reasonable suspicion that s/he will find a prohibited article or item for use in crime
- The person understands why they have been searched and feels that they have been treated with respect
- The search was necessary and was the most proportionate method the police officer could use to establish whether the person has such an item.