Stop and Search- Police powers and your rights
A common question from our clients is in relation to stop and search. The bottom line is that the police have powers to stop and question you at any time but they can only search you in certain situations.
Often the first thing an officer will do is ask you questions about what you are doing and where you are going. They are entitled to ask anyone these questions. You do not have to answer.
What if a PCSO wants to question you? well they can as long as they are wearing a uniform.
It might be that after asking a few questions the police are satisfied and you can go on your way but often once you are stopped it can lead to searches.
The general rule is that PCSOs cannot search individuals. PCSOs can search individuals for alcohol and tobacco but only with that person’s consent.
A police officer has greater powers than a PCSO but can only search you if he or she has reasonable grounds to suspect that they’re likely to find;
• Stolen property;
• Items which could be used to commit burglary, theft or deception;
• Certain types of firework;
• Evidence of game and wildlife offences;
• Alcohol at or on route to a designated sporting event;
• Items made, adapted or intended to damage or destroy property;
• Articles connected with terrorism.
Officers form their suspicions for different reasons. They might have overheard a conversation, have intelligence or witness someone carrying something they shouldn’t. The officer must tell you why they are suspicious of you and the reason they are carrying out a search.
You can be required to take off your coat, jacket or gloves. If any more items are required to be removed than an officer of the same sex as you must conduct the search.
If an officer wants to remove an item which is worn for religious reasons such as a head scarf they must take you somewhere private.
A record of every search conducted must be kept and the searched person given a copy. If you are arrested and taken to a police station, the details of the search will be recorded as part of your custody record and you will not be provided with a separate record of the search.
‘Stop and Searches’ must be carried out with courtesy and consideration. You should always be treated with respect but beware, ‘Stop and Search’ is not voluntary. If you refuse to co-operate the police will search you by force.
Most stop and searches do not result in arrests but should you be arrested we provide Free 24 Hour Advice and Assistance to all police stations in Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and nationally.