It’s important that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities in the event of a stop and search. Officers are responsible to ensure that people’s rights are protected, and, in turn, they expect members of the public to acknowledge their responsibilities and comply with their requests in a reasonable and calm manner.
What are your rights?
Here's a topline run-through of rights that protect you:
- The officers searching you must use the stop and search powers fairly, responsibly and with respect for people without discriminating
- If English is not your first language, and you do not understand why you have been stopped, reasonable steps must be taken to provide you with information in your own language
- The officer must keep the search time to a minimum
- The search must take place near where you are stopped, except in instances where moving you would protect your privacy
- The officer does not have the power to detain you in order to find grounds for a search. A more comprehensive overview of your rights when you are stopped and searched, can be found on the Home Office website
What are your responsibilities?
Everyone has a civic duty to help police officers prevent crime and catch offenders. The fact that the police may have stopped someone does not mean they are guilty of an offence.
Apart from the inconvenience, people may feel irritated that they’ve been stopped when they haven’t done anything wrong – that’s completely understandable. However, the stop or stop and search will be much quicker if a person cooperates with police officers.
Remember that the stop or stop and search must be carried out according to strict rules – the police have the responsibility to ensure that people’s rights are protected.
How should you react?
The police are aware that being searched is an inconvenience, and that you’re probably in a hurry to get where you're going. They should make the search as brief as possible. But in the interest of public safety they must also be thorough.
- Remember, you are not under arrest
- Don't refuse to be stopped or/and searched
- The process is not voluntary – the law gives police the authority to stop and search
- Officers do not need your permission to go through your belongings. If you refuse, you can be searched using reasonable force
- Don’t be afraid to speak to the officer if you think your rights are being infringed
It's criminals we're after
Being stopped does not mean you are under arrest or have done anything wrong. A police officer must have a good reason for stopping and/or searching you and they are required to tell you what that reason is.
In some cases, people are stopped as part of a wide-ranging effort to catch criminals in a targeted public place. These powers fall under Section 60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The officer should explain this to you and must be searching for items to be used in connection with violence.
You should not be stopped just because of your age, race, ethnic background, nationality, faith, the language you speak or because you have committed a crime in the past.
The police can stop or stop and search you or a vehicle:
- If they think you're carrying stolen goods, weapons, drugs, articles to commit criminal damage and theft or evidence relating to certain crimes
- If it is believed there will be serious violence or weapons are in the vicinity and a Section 60 authority is in place
- As part of anti-terrorism measures