The Supreme Court has recently supported the use of random stop and search powers allowed under s60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act on the basis this may save lives. The use of s60 powers is allowed in limited situations and with a view to help tackle gun and knife crime as well as gang violence. More commonly, people are stopped and searched under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
Stop and Search powers under s60
Under s60, the police can designate that people in a certain area can be subject to random searches for a maximum of 48 hours. This is if they think there will be serious violence in that area or people who are carrying weapons. If you are stopped under s60 then the police do not need to have any suspicion that you are carrying a weapon or anything illegal and are entitled to search you.
Stop and Search powers under PACE 1984/Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
This is the more common use of police stop and search powers. Using these powers, a police officer can stop you at any time as long as they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect that you are carrying one of the following:-
- A weapon
- Something that could be used to commit a crime
- Stolen property
Reasonable grounds might be that you are acting suspiciously by trying to avoid the police officer or hide something in your possession.
Police officers should not stop and search you solely on the basis of your ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality or if you have a disability. To do this would potentially be a breach of the Equality Act. If you think that this may apply to you then it is important to seek legal advice quickly as in most circumstances claims under the Equality Act will need to be made within 6 months of the date you were stopped and searched.
Before they search you, the police officer must…
- Give you their name and tell you which police station they are from
- Explain why they are legally allowed to search you
- Tell you what they are expecting to find on you
- Why they think you might have something illegal in your possession.
If you are stopped, the police officer may ask you questions – you do not have to answer these if you do not want to however it is probably easier and quicker to answer them.
The police officer is permitted to ask you to take off your coat or gloves but they must be of the same gender as you. If the police officer tells you to remove any more clothes or religious clothing then this has to be done away from public view.
If you think you have been unlawfully stopped and searched or wish to make a complaint about the way the police officer dealt with you then it is worth seeking legal advice on your rights. If you are eligible, you may be able to fund your complaint with assistance from the Legal Aid Agency.