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Publication - Consultation Responses

Consultation on Police Powers to Search Children and Young People for Alcohol: Analysis of Responses

Published: 4 Nov 2016
Part of:
Children and families, Law and order
ISBN:
9781786525698

Analysis of consultation responses received.

38 page PDF

769.9kB

38 page PDF

769.9kB

Contents
Consultation on Police Powers to Search Children and Young People for Alcohol: Analysis of Responses
4 Possible negative effects of a new police power to search children and young people (Q2)

38 page PDF

769.9kB

4 Possible negative effects of a new police power to search children and young people (Q2)

4.1 This chapter focuses on views relating to possible negative effects of a new police power to search a child or young person for alcohol. The chapter presents the analysis of Question 2, a closed tick-box question, together with an analysis of respondents' relevant comments.

Question 2: Do you think that any negative effects could result from a new power to search a child or young person for alcohol as outlined in Part 1 of this consultation paper? (Yes / No)

4.2 A total of 114 respondents replied to Question 2. Of these nearly two-thirds (64%; 73 out of 114 respondents) thought that negative effects could result from a new power to search a child or young person for alcohol, and a third (32%; 36 out of 114) did not think that negative effects would arise. See Table 4.1. While this general pattern was repeated across all respondent types, individuals were less likely than organisational respondents to believe that negative effects would result (57% and 85% respectively). Those answering 'Yes' at Question 2 included respondents who indicated support for a new power at Question 1 (just less than half of those indicating support for a new power nevertheless thought it could have negative effects).

Table 4.1: Q2 - Do you think that any negative effects could result from a new power to search a child or young person for alcohol as outlined in Part 1 of this consultation paper?

Respondent type

Yes

No

Don't Know

Total

n

%

n

%

n

%

n

%

Individuals

50

57%

33

38%

4

5%

87

100%

Third sector organisations

8

80%

2

20%

0

0%

10

100%

Local authorities / partnership bodies

6

86%

0

0%

1

13%

7

100%

Public sector bodies

4

100%

0

0%

0

0%

4

100%

Other organisations

5

83%

1

17%

0

0%

6

100%

All organisations

23

85%

3

11%

1

4%

27

100%

All respondents

73

64%

36

32%

5

4%

114

100%

Percentages do not all total 100% due to rounding.

4.3 Respondents who offered comments about the possible negative effects of a new power to search a child or young person for alcohol were almost entirely those who answered 'Yes' to Question 2.

4.4 Few respondents (just six) who answered 'No' or 'Don't know' to this question made any further comments to explain their views. Those who said 'No' (four respondents, of whom three were young people) saw the new power as a means to stop young people from drinking, with one individual highlighting a positive impact: 'Because it will help their health instead of ruining it'. The view was also expressed by this group that police officers can be trusted in their exercise of this new power and that any aggrieved individuals would have the right to complain. Those who said 'Don't know' (two respondents) either highlighted possible unintended consequences ('It could damage relationships between the young people and the police when they are only trying to keep people safe') or they discussed both positive and possible negative effects.

4.5 Respondents who answered 'Yes' to Question 2 identified a number of possible negative effects from the exercise of this new power. The main ones were:

  • Effects on relationships between young people and the police
  • Effects on the wellbeing and safety of young people
  • Effects on the human rights of young people.

4.6 Each of these issues was noted by respondents discussing their reasons for opposing the new power (see Chapter 3) and is explored further in the section below. A final section in the chapter summarises other less frequently identified potentially negative effects.

Effects on relationships between young people and the police

4.7 Respondents thought that a new power for police to search children and young people for alcohol could have a potentially negative effect on relationships between young people and the police. This was the main negative effect identified. This point was made by a range of respondents, but poor experiences of stop and search and other interactions with the police, and the impact this had on perceptions of the police were also important themes in the discussions involving children and young people.

4.8 Respondents thought that such a power could lead to young people losing trust or confidence in the police, and could affect young people's willingness to ask the police for help when they need it. Different respondents suggested that such a power could result in young people feeling 'picked on' or intimidated (seeing the police as more of a threat, rather than a help), and feeling alienated - both from the police and from their own communities. In addition, one respondent cited research which suggested that, on some occasions where stop and search is used as a deterrent to crime in relation to young people, outcomes can be worse than if no intervention took place at all (McAra and McVie, 2010).

4.9 Some respondents suggested that young people could respond to such feelings of intimidation through violence - thus putting at risk the safety of officers or other members of the public. There was a view that this would ultimately lead to a more combative relationship between young people and the police.

4.10 Respondents also cited large-scale statistical research from America which suggested that, in communities where trust in the police or the justice system is low, levels of violence and anti-social behaviour are high (Kirk and Papachristos, 2011, cited in Deuchar and Miller, 2016).

4.11 As mentioned in Chapter 3 (paragraph 3.21), there was a view that building and maintaining children and young people's trust in the police was more important than any possible benefits that might be achieved in searching children and young people for alcohol.

Effects on wellbeing and safety of young people

4.12 Respondents also commonly identified possible negative effects on the wellbeing and safety of children and young people from the introduction of a new power to search them for alcohol.

4.13 Respondents commented (based on focus group discussions and their own experience) that young people can feel very 'embarrassed', 'demoralised', 'threatened' and 'discriminated against' when they are searched by the police - often, in their view, for no apparent reason. Some suggested that this can have a significant negative impact on a child or young person's self-esteem or self-image, and it simply reinforces a negative perception of children and young people in communities.

4.14 Respondents argued that there was a risk of criminalising children and young people. One respondent cited research which suggests that stop and search brings young people into contact with the criminal justice system when that might not otherwise have happened, and once a young person is in contact with the justice system, they are more likely to continue offending (McAra and McVie, 2010, cited by Murray and McVie, 2016). Other evidence was also cited which suggests that where stop and search is used as a deterrent to reduce crime or minimise risk, young people are more likely to feel criminalised, whereas if stop and search powers are used only for detection, these feelings typically do not occur (Deuchar and Miller, 2016).

4.15 There was also concern that the exercise of a power to stop and search young people for alcohol would not prevent them from accessing alcohol at all, but might in fact put their safety at greater risk as they would choose to gather in more secluded areas to drink.

4.16 Particular concerns were also voiced about the possible effects of searching a young person who may have a learning disability or mental health issue. One respondent commented that her child had Asperger's Syndrome and could react very badly to a search carried out by a police officer.

Effects on the human rights of young people

4.17 Respondents also frequently highlighted the impact on the rights of children and young people as a potential negative effect of stop and search powers.

4.18 Respondents considered that the exercise of such powers would constitute an invasion of the privacy of young people - citing data from the consultation paper which indicated that nine out of ten searches of children and young people carried out by the police to look for alcohol did not find any alcohol.

4.19 Respondents expressed doubts about whether a young person as young as 12 or 13 would have the confidence, maturity and capacity to exercise their rights in such a situation.

4.20 Respondents were concerned that stop and search activity was often carried out in discriminatory ways, which led to young people in disadvantaged communities being most likely to be subject to the tactic. They highlighted research from Scotland on stop and search involving young people which showed that most searches involved white working-class males, suggesting that these powers are being exercised in a discriminatory way and may be contributing to the further marginalisation of disadvantaged young people (Deuchar and Miller 2016; Murray 2014; O'Neill et al. 2015). Research by Deuchar and Miller (2016) also found that, among young people in the west of Scotland, stop and search was the main encounter that young people had with the police and that these encounters were perceived by young people as mostly negative - they believed that police use of stop and search showed a lack of respect, emphasised power differentials, and resulted in feelings of intimidation, discrimination and stigmatisation.

4.21 Finally, it was also noted that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has raised concerns about the use of stop and search on children and young people. This Committee has recommended that the exercise of non-statutory powers should be prohibited, and that the use of statutory stop and search powers should be proportionate, 'taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child', and non-discriminatory.

Other possible effects

4.22 Less often, respondents identified other possible negative effects in relation to:

  • Relationships between parents and police: Respondents suggested that the exercise of stop and search powers in relation to children could result in possible allegations of assault or 'planting' of alcohol by parents / guardians who were not present at the time of the search.
  • Possible (longer term) effects on communities: It was argued that a mistrust between young people and the police would ultimately lead to mistrust between police and communities in the longer term.

Views of those who supported a new police power

4.23 Respondents who supported the introduction of a new police power (see Chapter 3, paragraphs 3.11 to 3.16) nevertheless often also acknowledged that there were risks that it could have a negative impact on individual children and young people, and on police relations with young people and communities in general (as discussed above - see paragraphs 4.7 to 4.21). While some in this group simply thought the 'benefits outweighed the costs', others suggested that steps would need to be taken to minimise any negative impacts. They noted that robust procedures would need to be in place, along with adequate police training, in order to ensure good practice and protect the rights of children and young people - some referred to the role that the forthcoming stop and search Code of Practice (see Chapter 1, paragraph 1.6 to 1.9) might play in this. More specific comments included the following:

  • The tactic should only be used as a last resort when the use of seizure of alcohol has not been effective, or when a young person is at risk.
  • There should be no increase in the use of stop and search as a result of a new power being introduced.
  • Search activity should be informed by local circumstances (e.g. the presence of by-laws).
  • The wellbeing of children and community safety should always be the priorities.
  • A search should only take place if grounds for suspicion are properly met.
  • The police should take account of the fact that children might be coerced into concealing alcohol.
  • Parental permission should be sought (by phone) prior to a search being carried out.
  • An appropriate adult / parent / carer should be informed or in attendance.
  • The search should be carried out in private.
  • The search should be carried out by an officer of the same gender as the child being searched.
  • All searches of children and young people should be logged.
  • Any new power should be accompanied by communication and public education regarding the rights of those who might be subject to stop and search.

4.24 Some respondents who were generally opposed to the new police power also expressed conditions similar to those listed above which they believed should be in place should a new power be introduced.


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