Comment – use of stop and search powers in Scotland

The Commission has commented on two publications about the use of stop and search powers by the police in Scotland.

On Wednesday 15 January Police Scotland published statistics on the powers from the date the force was created in April 2013, to December 2013. Read the Police Scotland news release.

Today the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research has published a research report analysing police use of stop and search powers. Read the report here.

Both reports show a high number of stop and search operations are carried out each year in Scotland.

Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission said: “We welcome the Murray report as well as the updated information released yesterday by Police Scotland. Both demonstrate the need for greater clarity – for the public on the dramatic increase in the use of stop and search powers, and for officers as to how such powers should be exercised.

“The recent increase in the use of non-statutory powers of stop and search [i.e. where there is no reasonable suspicion of the person] is particularly concerning. According to Police Scotland these amount to 70% of the almost half a million searches conducted between April and December in 2013. Such an increased and extensive use of this form of stop and search power can, dependent upon the circumstances, be unlawful, be carried out without informed and freely given consent, and have a longer term adverse impact upon police and community relations. Scotland should not be repeating the mistakes and lessons learned in England and Wales, where the use of stop and search is reducing.”