Sunday, 22 March 2015

Review of Stop and Search

Councillors within the Greater Glasgow Division of Police Scotland were asked to provide comments on Stop and Search by 17th March 2015.

It may be that Stop and Search contributes to detecting crime. However, I asked that reference is made to the summary of the research report by K Murray, which states, 
The effectiveness of stop and search remains unclear. Detection rates are unstable, and can range from around 2% for offensive weapons to over 30% for stolen property. The deterrent effect of stop and search is particularly difficult to untangle, and further research is required in order to establish whether there is a robust association between search activity and offending. “

Whilst there is a lack of clarity on the effectiveness of stop and search, there is a requirement to restrict police use of non-statutory stop and search powers. The excess use of stop and searches is alienating many of the young people who are victims of crime. I refer to comments of Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner published on 11th November 2014;
A particularly concerning finding of the report was that its figures showed a disproportionate use of stop and search on children and young people. The tactic was used on hundreds of children under 10. Most children and young people who were stopped and searched, however, were 15 or above. This remains the case in more recent figures published by the Scottish Police Authority. This teenage age group is also the most likely to be subject to non-statutory stop and searches— where the police act without suspicion of any wrongdoing. Crime detection rates for the age group, however, are low.
Research – such as the Edinburgh Study on Youth Transitions and Crime – suggests that ‘adversarial police contact’ may actually increase the level of crime that young people commit. “

Far too many innocent people have been subjected to stop and search, which does nothing to help foster good police relations within the community. The police need focus on gaining support, co-operation and information from young people in particular, to defeat gun and knife crime and the class A drug trade.

Stop and search should be based on intelligence, not trawling through age and ethnic profiles as seems to be the case at the moment. Unintelligent use of stop and search leads to distrust, resentment, alienation and a low arrest rate. We need to recognise the motive for most gun and knife crime is the drug trade. The new approach would involve better targeting, focussing on those previously caught carrying a weapon.

I ask that you consider the recommendations of the research report by K Murray, as follows:-

"1. The primary aim of stop and search should be clarified. Currently it is unclear as to whether the aim is to detect or deter. The appropriate legal and regulatory framework should put in place to support the primary aim.

2. The use of non-statutory stop and search raises concerns in relation to procedural protection, consent, proportionality and human rights. It is recommended that this practice is phased out. The use of stop and search should be underpinned by legislation.

3. The use of stop and search on children should be reviewed with a view to establishing a set of clear guidelines for police practice.

4. Open access data are required in order to make policing transparent, accountable, and to secure a public mandate on the use of stop and search. The use of non-statutory stop and search and all other types of search powers should be clearly distinguished within these data. Recording procedures should also be put in place to measure the prevalence of stop and search, that is, the extent to which the same individuals are subject to repeat stop searches. Stop and search data should be accredited with the UK Statistics Authority.

5. Stop and search data should be routinely analysed to assess whether police practice is proportionate to local patterns of offending, for example, in terms of the types of crime that are most likely to be carried out, and the demographic profile of offending.

6. Research should be undertaken to explore the deterrent effect of stop and search. Given that large scale stop and search has been justified in terms of falling levels of recorded crime and offending, it is important to establish whether a robust relationship exists between the two factors.

7. It is also recommended that in-depth qualitative research is undertaken to assess the impact of stop and search on police-community relationships in Scotland.

8. It is recommended that research is undertaken to assess the effect of performance management on officer decision-making, and to ascertain whether the use of Key Performance Indicators and numerical targets is likely to influence the patterning of stop and search."
In addition to seeking the views of elected councillors, there should be a wider public consultation on the use of stop and search across Scotland. This could be conducted through working with community councils, housing associations, third sector organisations including children’s organisations, youth projects, and equalities groups.

A key concern is the consent of the public for Police Scotland to adopt stop and search as an operational tactic. The legal framework and guidelines are expected to be developed through a process of public engagement and feedback provided by members of the public. In the development of an appropriate legal and regulatory framework for stop and search, account is required of the capacity of a person to consent to stop and search.

The use of stop and search has implications for the Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights. Reference can be made to the concerns raised by Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Commission the Scottish Human Rights.

Please note that Glasgow City Council is working with UNICEF to support the Child Rights Partners Project.   There should be an opportunity to share information and consult upon the appropriate legal and regulatory framework for stop and search with stakeholders involved in this project.

Useful links:

Murray, K. (2014), 'Stop and search in Scotland: An evaluation of police practice.' SCCJR Report 01/2014. -

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