As one of the 8.6 million people who live in the 620 square miles we call London, I wanted to break down what Stop and Search actually means…
DID YOU KNOW…The Police can stop (or question) you at any time but they can only search you depending on the situation.
From 2013-2014 the Metropolitan police carried out 289,187 stop and searches under PACE Section 1 and 1,854 stop and searches under Section 60 Criminal Justice & Public Order Act.
Section 1 (2)(a) of The PACE Act 1984 explains that a police officer can search any person if the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is carrying ‘stolen or prohibited articles’.
If you ever have a police officer stop you, the officer is going to ask you two questions:
1. What you’re doing
2. Why you’re in an area and where you’re going
BUT remember, you don’t have a legal obligation to answer any of these questions. It helps if you do, but you can choose to stay silent if you want to.
REMEMBER – A Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) must be in uniform to stop you, whilst a police officer can be plain-clothed but must show a warrant card
A police officer can search you if they have reasonable grounds to suspect you to be carrying the following:
1. Illegal drugs
2. A weapon
3. Stolen property
4. Something you may use to commit a crime
REMEMBER – Despite what is written above, you may be stopped WITHOUT reasonable grounds if it is approved by a senior police officer (see The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 s.60(1) for more details) and they suspect:
1. Serious violence could take place
2. If you’re carrying a weapon or have used one
3. You’re in a specific location or area
Again, you do not have to answer, but do be cooperative.
In the event that you are searched, a police officer must tell you:
1. Their name and police station
2. What the officer expects to find
3. The reason they want to search you
4. Why they are legally allowed to search you
5. That you can have a copy of the search, or how to get the search later
So the next time you are stopped by a police officer, remember the ‘ABC’ basics:
A. Stay calm and understand why you have been stopped.
B. Ask any question you need to.
C. Keep a copy of the search – and if you feel that the search was carried out inappropriately, let someone know.