Stop and Search
Stop and search: -
The police have a right and a duty to stop and talk to members of the public and in certain circumstances to search them. This is done in order to help keep people safe and is used to prevent terrorism as well as tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
Some stop and search powers allow you to be searched without grounds, for example, to discover if you are in possession of munitions or wireless apparatus or if there is a risk of serious violence or disorder. In most circumstances police need grounds to search you.
Stop and search enables police officers to quickly allay or confirm any suspicions about individuals without the need to first make an arrest. A police officer may ask you a few questions before a search takes place, as this may quickly dispel any suspicion removing the necessity to carry out a search.
Your rights: -
If you do something that results in police interaction (for example, if you're arrested for a suspected crime) or if you're stopped and searched in the street, you can expect to be treated fairly and with respect at all times.
The police must follow rules set out in codes of practice relating to stop and search, these outline how you should be treated and what rights you have. You can view this legislation here:
Reasons you can be stopped and searched: -
The police can stop and search you for reasons including:
• As part of anti-terrorism efforts.
• If there has been serious violence or disorder in the area.
• If the police are looking for a suspect who fits your description.
• If the police have reasonable grounds to suspect you’re carrying drugs, a weapon or stolen property.
If you are subject to a stop and search: -
• Being stopped does not mean that you are under arrest or that you have necessarily done something wrong.
• If you are stopped, you are required to stay for the duration of the search. If necessary you will be prevented from walking away.
• Police must use the search powers fairly, responsibly and with respect for people without discriminating.
• Police must make sure that the search time is kept to a minimum.
• The search must take place near to where you were stopped, except on occasions where moving you would protect your privacy.
• If you are in a public place, you only have to take off your coat or jacket and any gloves that you are wearing, unless you have been stopped in relation to terrorism or where Police believe you are using clothes to hide your identity.
Stop and search scrutiny: -
The use of stop and search powers are monitored internally and discussed during quarterly meetings chaired at Assistant Chief Constable level. The use of “without reasonable suspicion” powers under the Justice & Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 are reviewed and the findings published on a yearly basis.
Stop and Search Frequently Asked Questions
Who can stop and search me?
Any police officer can stop and search you. If they are not in uniform they must identify themselves prior to the search taking place.
Where can I be searched?
In a public place anywhere, if the police believe you have committed or are about to commit a crime. If you are in a public place then you are only required to take off your coat, jacket or gloves, unless you have been stopped in relation to terrorism.
If there is a requirement for you to take off more than this it must be done out of public view.
What happens if I am stopped and searched?
Before a search, where practicable a police officer must tell you the grounds for the search, what they are looking for, their name (except in relation to terrorism) and station attached. They must also explain to you how to receive a copy of the search record.
What paperwork should I get if I am stopped and searched?
Police Officers are required to complete a record of the search electronically. After the search you will receive a card with your unique reference number and details of how to obtain a copy of the search record. The record will be available for you to request up to 12 months after the stop and search.
Is this a criminal record?
The fact that you are stopped and searched does not mean that you have done anything wrong or that you are under arrest. The officer is required to complete a form but this does not amount to you having a police record.
Can I be stopped and searched more than once a day?
There is nothing in law to prevent a person being stopped and searched more than once in any day, as long as the legal requirements are fulfilled on each occasion.
What if I refuse?
If you refuse to stop, officers can use reasonable force to stop you so they can conduct a search. Depending on your behavior your refusal could lead to you being arrested for Obstructing a Police Officer.