Commission calls for end to non-statutory stop and search

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has called for an end to the police practice of carrying out non-statutory stop and search.

Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Commission, said:

“The police must always carry out stop and search powers within the law. If used inappropriately, these powers pose a threat to everyone’s right to privacy, protected in our law by the Human Rights Act and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. All of us should be free to go about our daily business and the police should only be entitled to stop and search us if they have reasonable suspicion that we are doing something unlawful.

“Police in Scotland have a number of statutory powers to stop and search people. When used appropriately, statutory stop and search can help to keep us all safe. However, the Commission has serious concerns about the legality and scale of non-statutory stop and search of individuals. These searches can be conducted without any reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed or any concern over risk to public safety. This is particularly concerning in the case of children and other vulnerable people.

“In our view, any stop and search should take place within a clear legal framework. Without this, current police practice is open to legal challenge. Should such a challenge be successful, as is likely,  emergency reactive measures would need to be introduced. As recent experience has shown, this would be an unnecessary and unhelpful way of addressing a problem that can and should be solved today.

“The Commission believes that proactive steps should be taken now to strengthen the legal framework within which any and all  stop and searches take place. There should be no non-statutory stop and search. This is already the case in England and Wales, where the practice was ended some considerable time ago. Ending the practice in Scotland would clarify the situation for both the public as well as for the police, benefit the relationship between the police and communities and would be a positive and constructive approach to protecting the human rights of us all.”

Read a presentation on the Commission's work on policing and human rights.

For media enquiries, please contact Emma Hutton on 07833 402289 or email