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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
4 Inclusion of a section on children and young people (Q2)

50 page PDF

577.1kB

4 Inclusion of a section on children and young people (Q2)

4.1 There are several references in the draft Code to stop and search situations which might involve children and young people, and section 5.1 states that: 'when deciding whether to search a child or young person who is under 18 years old the constable must treat the need to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of the child as a primary consideration, as required by section 68 of the 2016 Act'. There was, however, no separate section on searches of children and young people in the Code as it was drafted, and Question 2 in the consultation paper asked for views on whether such a section should be included:

Question 2: Should there be a separate section of the Code of Practice to deal specifically with searches of children and young people? (Yes / No).

Question 2a: If you answered YES to Q2 - do you have any suggestions as to what should be included in a section on children and young people?

4.2 Thirty respondents (21 individuals and 9 organisations) answered Question 2. Table 4.1 shows that the majority of respondents (80%; 24 out of 30 respondents) thought that there should be a separate section on children and young people in the Code. Organisations were unanimous in this view, but more than a quarter of individuals (29%; 6 out of 21) did not think there should be a separate section.

Table 4.1: Q2 - Should there be a separate section of the Code of Practice to deal specifically with searches of children and young people?

Respondent type

Yes

No

Total

n

%

n

%

n

%

Individuals

15

71%

6

29%

21

100%

Organisations

9

100%

0

0%

9

100%

All

24

80%

6

20%

30

100%

Note: The views of children and young people who took part in consultation activities are not included in the table.

4.3 Twenty-one respondents (11 individuals and 10 organisations) provided comments at Question 2a. In addition, the two reports of consultation activities involving children and young people also covered this question. The remainder of the chapter presents an analysis of the views presented.

4.4 The first section in the chapter presents reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with the option of including a separate section on children and young people; the second section presents views on what should be included if such a section were included in the Code. [13] A final section of the chapter considers other comments made by respondents.

Views on a separate section on children and young people

4.5 Those who thought that there should be a separate section on searches of children and young people offered the following main reasons:

  • Children and young people have different needs to adults because of their age and stage of development (emotional and intellectual), and stop and search procedures need to take account of this. Children and young people may not understand the reasons for being searched, the processes involved, or their rights, and may find a stop and search situation bewildering and distressing. A separate section in the Code could help ensure that the police understand and take full account of the needs of children and young people - including those with additional needs - and act in an appropriate way towards them to minimise any possible negative effects.
  • Children and young people as a group lack power in society, and there is a particular power imbalance between children and young people and the police which needs to be recognised. Young people could, for example, feel victimised by police stop and search activity. A separate section in the Code could provide guidance to the police on understanding and responding to the particular dynamics of interacting with this group.
  • The police need to take account of safeguarding and wellbeing issues in dealing with children, and indeed have a duty to treat this as a primary consideration in line with section 68 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016. A separate section in the Code would help inform stop and search practice in relation to this.
  • Good practice in relation to the use of stop and search with children and young people is important for maintaining good community relations and ensuring that children and young people do not become alienated or criminalised. A separate section in the Code could help achieve this.

4.6 Two respondents thought a specific section would be particularly important if the police were granted new powers to search children and young people for alcohol (this issue is being considered in a separate concurrent consultation - see Chapter 1, paragraph 1.8)

4.7 Those opposed to or expressing reservations about including a separate section covering searches of children and young people argued that everyone should be treated the same regardless of age. Those expressing this view included some of the children and young people who participated in consultation activities. There was a further suggestion that the treatment of children and young people by the police should be addressed through education and training rather than via an 'additional policy'.

Content of a section on searches of children and young people

4.8 Respondents offered a range of views about what might be included in a separate children and young people section in the Code. Some respondents focused on the principles which should guide such a section, while others were more concerned about the practicalities of stop and search situations.

4.9 Those focusing on principles called for a children and young people section with a strong 'rights' basis, with clear priority given to protecting the wellbeing of the child or young person involved. Reference was made to a wide range of policy frameworks and legislation which should underpin the guidance provided ( e.g. GIRFEC, [14] Police Scotland's existing child protection policies and practices, existing procedures for dealing with vulnerable witnesses and victims, section 68 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, and relevant equalities legislation).

4.10 More specifically, respondents thought the section should provide full and clear guidance on procedures when dealing with children and young people, the practicalities involved, and the support available in this situation. Different respondents stressed the importance of addressing the following in the Code:

  • Age thresholds: Clear definitions of 'child' and 'young person' should be provided.
  • Grounds for stop and search: Children and young people should only be stopped and searched in exceptional circumstances, and there should be clarity about appropriate grounds for searching children and young people, and the grounds and purpose of the search should be explained clearly to those involved. Situations involving 'innocent possession' should be covered in the Code. One particular suggestion made by young people was for information on searches of young people to be recorded in a way which allowed officers to be able to check recent stop and search history prior to conducting a search.
  • Involvement of responsible adults: An appropriate / responsible adult should be present at a search of a child or young person, and there should be guidance on procedures to be followed when a responsible adult cannot be located. The importance of informing / involving parents in particular was noted by some.
  • Dealing with children and young people in appropriate ways: All interaction with children and young people should take account of their needs, their stage of emotional and intellectual development, and their vulnerabilities in finding themselves in a stop and search situation. Officers involved should take account of the emotional impact on children and young people of being stopped, and draw on any previous knowledge about the young person involved.
  • Communication: All communication with children and young people should be age-appropriate and take account of any special needs.

Other comments

4.11 There was a number of other points made by respondents in answering this question, and in relation to the treatment of children and young people in the Code more generally. These were each made by a one or two respondents only, and focused on the following:

  • Accessibility: Any separate section in the Code should be written in a way that was accessible for children and young people.
  • Consultation: Further consultation should be undertaken to ensure that any section dealing with children and young people reflected best practice in this area, including in relation to children and young people from particular equality groups. There were several specific suggestions as to individuals / organisations who might contribute to the development of such a section.
  • Monitoring: The use of stop and search with children and young people should be closely monitored, and young people should be involved in this scrutiny.
  • Terminology: The use of terminology referring to children and young people should be consistent throughout the Code.

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