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- Law and order
Consultations launched on search practices.
A new code of practice for stop and search and the use of the practice when children are thought to be carrying alcohol is being looked at in two new consultations.
The stop and search consultations are part of the Scottish Government's commitment to ensure the police have appropriate powers to protect the public while providing robust safeguards around the use of stop and search.
The code of practice was developed by an independent Advisory Group, chaired by prominent solicitor advocate John Scott QC, which was set up to examine the use of stop and search powers. It sets out guidance on how and when stop and search is used, how the search should be carried out and the type of information that should be recorded. Once this code comes into force, the practice of non-statutory (or consensual) stop and search will end.
The second consultation considers the search of a child or young person under the age of 18 suspected of having alcohol or the search of a person suspected of supplying a child with alcohol. It follows a recommendation from the Advisory Group related to a potential legislative gap once consensual search ends, as the police do not currently have a specific legal power to search children and young people for alcohol.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:
"The fact that stop and search has led to the seizures of dangerous weapons, drugs and stolen goods shows how it can be a valuable tool in combating crime.
"However, it is important that police get the balance right between protecting the public and the rights of the individuals.
"We have already seen significant moves by Police Scotland towards phasing out the practice of non-statutory, or so-called "consensual" stop and search in preparation for it ending completely once the new code of practice comes in.
"These consultations are about giving people the chance to share their views on how and when stop and search should be used.
"We are particularly keen to hear from young people who have experience of being stopped by the police. Their views will help us to consider the best possible way to tackle the issue of children and young people drinking in public and the harm that it can cause.
"By listening to the public, Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority can ensure that stop and search achieves what we all want to see – safer communities."
The Scottish Government has already acted, using the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, to end non-statutory (or consensual) stop and search once the code of practice comes into force. This followed advice from the independent Advisory Group. This means that the police will only be able to search a person where they have a specific legal power to do so.
The practice of stop and search allows police officers to search people for dangerous objects, drugs, stolen goods, weapons and other items. Once non-statutory (or consensual) stop and search ends, the Police will only be able to do this where they have reasonable grounds to suspect possession and specific statutory power to do so.
A code of practice underpinning the use of stop and search is required under The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016.
The consultations will run until 15 July (longer than usual, to reflect the pre-election period).
The independent Advisory Group on Stop and Search was created in March 2015.
Police Scotland have a stop and search improvement plan, which captures the recommendations from a range of external reviews and overseen by the SPA.