News In Focus
Police stop and search code published today
The code of practice for use of police "stop and search" powers has been published today by the Scottish Government.
The code results from the work of an advisory group led by solicitor advocate John Scott QC, and its creation received widespread support from a public consultation.
A code of practice underpinning the use of stop and search is required under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016. This will end the practice of non-statutory, or consensual, stop and search, which is already being phased out. Under the Act the police will only be able to carry out stop and search – for items such as dangerous objects, drugs, stolen goods or weapons – where they have reasonable grounds to suspect possession and specific statutory power to do so.
If approved by the Scottish Parliament, the code will come into force in May.
Promoting public safety and preventing and detecting crime are set out as the main aims of the code. Recognising that being stopped and searched by police is a significant intrusion into liberty and privacy, it states that use of powers must be necessary, proportionate and in accordance with the law.
Following public feedback, it includes specific guidance on stop and search of children and vulnerable adults.
Two plain English guides to the code, including one aimed specifically at children, will be published online ahead of the code taking effect.
As recommended by the advisory group, once the code of practice has been in force for 12 months, ministers will reassess whether a specific police power is needed to search chioldren for alcohol. In November, ministers concluded that there was insufficient evidence at that point to justify such a power.
Mr Scott commented: “Police Scotland have already come a long way from the point of time when we reported in September 2015. This code will complete the process of change from non-statutory searches to statutory searches.
“The code has been substantially revised thanks to responses in the formal consultation process and the contribution of others in the last few months – leading academics; relevant organisations dealing with children, young people and those with specific vulnerabilities; several Government departments; and officers of the National Stop and Search Unit.
“The code will be subject to regular review, with the changes monitored initially in six and 12 months to ensure a smooth transition. The Government is to be commended for addressing such a complex area with the urgency it required.”
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams added: "Police Scotland has made real progress in relation to its use of stop and search and very much welcomes the introduction of the code. We are currently training all our officers in advance of its introduction to ensure we are fully prepared."
Click here to access the code.