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Publication - Consultation Responses

Consultation on a Draft Code of Practice for Stop and Search: Analysis of Responses

Published: 4 Nov 2016
Part of:
Law and order
ISBN:
9781786525703

Analysis of consultation responses received on the draft code of practice for stop and search.

50 page PDF

577.1kB

50 page PDF

577.1kB

Contents
Consultation on a Draft Code of Practice for Stop and Search: Analysis of Responses
3 The purpose of stop and search (Q1)

50 page PDF

577.1kB

3 The purpose of stop and search (Q1)

3.1 Part 1 of the Code consisted of two chapters: Chapter 1 included an introduction to stop and search and outlined the purpose of the Code; Chapter 2 set out a series of principles governing the conduct of stop and search activity. It did not, however, contain a statement on the purpose of stop and search. Question 1 in the consultation paper asked respondents if they thought the Code should state the purpose of stop and search and, if so, what the primary purpose should be:

Question 1: Should the Code of Practice state what the primary purpose of stop and search is? (Yes / No).

Question 1a: If yes, please specify what the primary purpose should be.

3.2 Thirty respondents (21 individuals and 9 organisations) answered Question 1, and all but two (93%; 28 out of 30) thought that the Code should state the primary purpose of stop and search. The two respondents who disagreed were both individual (as opposed to organisational) respondents. See Table 3.1.

Table 3.1: Q1 - Should the Code of Practice state what the primary purpose of stop and search is?

Respondent type

Yes

No

Total

n

%

n

%

n

%

Individuals

19

90%

2

10%

21

100%

Organisations

9

100%

0

0%

9

100%

All

28

93%

2

7%

30

100%

3.3 Twenty-two respondents (13 individuals and 9 organisations) offered additional comments at Question 1a. This comprised twenty-one respondents who had answered 'Yes' at Question 1 and one respondent who had not answered Question 1. Respondents answered the question in two main ways: they explained why they thought the Code should state the primary purpose of stop and search; and / or they outlined what they thought the primary purpose should be. Views on both of these issues are presented in turn below. A final section of the chapter looks at other comments made.

Should the primary purpose of stop and search be stated?

3.4 Around half of respondents providing comments at Question 1a expanded on why they thought the Code should state the primary purpose of stop and search. There was a high degree of consensus across all respondents that this was needed for reasons of clarity (for all stakeholders), public understanding about the use of the tactic and its limitations, and public confidence.

3.5 Some respondents referred to the contentious nature of police stop and search powers and the potential for the power to be abused. They thought that the inclusion of a clear statement of purpose in the Code would demonstrate a commitment to using the power fairly and to good effect for the benefit of the community, and would reduce fear and confusion among members of the public.

3.6 Neither of the respondents who disagreed that the Code should state the primary purpose of stop and search offered any further comment and so it is not possible to explore their views any further (note that Question 1a was directed specifically at those who answered 'Yes' at Question 1). However, one respondent who did not answer the Question 1 went on to offer comments - they did not think that including a purpose was necessary, but offered a view on what might be covered should it be included in the Code.

What should be the primary purpose of stop and search?

3.7 Respondents took two approaches to commenting on what the purpose of stop and search should be. Some discussed this in terms of overall policy aims, while others talked about more practical operational objectives.

3.8 Those discussing overall policy objectives offered two views on what the purpose of stop and search should be, with slightly different emphases. These were as follows:

  • That the stated purpose of stop and search should be to promote public safety and ensure community and individual wellbeing, in line with the principles which inform all police work in Scotland (as set out in the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 [11] )
  • That the stated purpose of stop and search should focus more on the prevention and detection of crime, and be more in line with the purpose included in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act Code of Practice adopted in England and Wales, i.e. to help prevent and detect crime by enabling the police to 'allay or confirm suspicions about individuals without exercising their power of arrest'. [12]

3.9 Respondents, for the most part, did not offer a detailed rationale for their views, but one civil rights organisation noted that they thought the 'purpose' adopted in England and Wales was 'simpler to understand and better clarifies the intent and potential outcomes of a stop and search'.

3.10 Those focusing on practical operational issues thought the purpose of stop and search should be to safeguard communities by identifying and removing from the public domain potentially harmful items such as weapons, drugs (including alcohol) and drugs paraphernalia, and other items linked to criminal activity.

3.11 There was also a call for the stated purpose of stop and search to include specific reference to its application with children and young people.

Other comments

3.12 Other comments focused largely on different aspects of public communication and dissemination, with respondents stressing the importance of ensuring that the public in general and those subject to stop and search were properly informed of the purpose of the tactic, how it is used and what their rights are. Comments included the following:

  • That a statement on the purpose of stop and search be added to Appendix B of the Code (Example of Information to be Given to Persons subject to Stop and Search)
  • That the Code and any related communication should be in plain English, short and accessible to people with low reading ages, with summary information also available
  • That those stopped should be given full information on their rights, but that any information given should not compromise police investigations and / put any person at risk.

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