In a Government report published in February 2021 it confirmed that between April 2019 and March 2020 there were 563,837 stop and searches in England and Wales (the statistics for 2021 have yet to be produced).
Almost half of those searched took place in the Metropolitan police force area and it was confirmed in the report that London had the highest stop and search rates for all ethnic groups except for the “Other” group (where the highest was Kent) and White Ethnic group in Merseyside.
The data shows that:
- there were 563,837 stop and searches in England and Wales between April 2019 and March 2020, a rate of 11 per 1,000 people
- there were 6 stop and searches for every 1,000 White people, compared with 54 for every 1,000 Black people
- there were 16 stop and searches per 1,000 people with Mixed ethnicity, and 15 per 1,000 Asian people
- the 3 Black ethnic groups had the highest rates of stop and search out of all 18 individual ethnic groups
- the Black Other group had the highest rate overall with 157 stop and searches per 1,000 people – this group includes people who did not identify as Black African or Black Caribbean, or were not recorded as such
Further data as reported in the Guardian Newspaper in August 2020 showed that only one in five stops led to an arrest, fine or caution.
Figures contained in an update by the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (Mopac) covering the first quarter of 2020-2021 shows
The number of Stop and Searches resulting from S60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is highest in Quarter 2 each year due to Notting Hill Carnival. Overall, the number of Stop and Searches has increased by 40% since Q4 2019/20 and 59% higher than the previous year. Drugs related Stops accounted for 69% of all Stop and Search in the latest quarter; this is an increase of 60% from the previous quarter. 15% of Stop and Searches are for weapons, points and blades, this increased by 14% from Q4 and increased 12% from Q1 2019/20.
Despite this evidence that it does not seem to result in an increase in arrests or convictions the police seem to use it more and more as part of their powers and some would say as an abuse of their powers, when it bears little fruit in tackling crime.
What to do when being stopped and searched?
The majority of stop and searches in public are under s.1 PACE. The following key points about stop and search relate to searches under this power.
- You do NOT have to provide your name when you are stopped and searched. Unless the police reasonably believe you are acting anti-socially . If an officer asks for your name, ask under what power they are entitled to know your name.
- The police can search you or your car if they have reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of controlled drugs, stolen goods or weapons (including fireworks). Reasonable suspicion means it must be based on objective evidence, for example intelligence or evidence. It cannot be based on the officer’s personal opinion or instincts, stereotypes or prejudice.
- The fact that you have previous convictions is not a lawful ground to search you. Neither is the fact that you are young or because of your ethnicity or the way you dress. However, the police CAN search you if you are wearing items of clothing or other items (i.e. bandana) that a “gang” uses to identify its members and that “gang” is known (through reliable information or intelligence) to carry weapons or drugs.
- The police can only search your outer garments, including the pockets of the outer clothing and or feel around the inside of your collar, socks or shoes. If the police want to search anything other than your outer garments you must be taken to a police van or somewhere else private.
- The extent of the search must not be excessive. For example, if you are being searched for weapons, it would not normally be reasonable for police to search inside your wallet.
- The police must provide you a record of the search at the time or a receipt that will enable you to obtain the record within three months of the search. It is important to obtain this so that you can log a complaint, if you feel that the search was unlawful or the police were unacceptably rude or disrespectful. It could also be relevant if you are charged with an offence following the search. Make sure the officer’s name and shoulder number are recorded on the record.
- The police can search children under 10 years old, even though there would be no power to arrest that child if anything prohibited or stolen was found.
- The police must tell you before you are searched;
a) their name
b) the police station they are attached to
c) what the reasonable suspicion is that you are in possession of stolen or prohibited items
d) what they are searching for (i.e. drugs, weapons or stolen items)
e) the fact that you are detained
f) that you are entitled to a copy of the search record.
g) If the officer is in plain clothes they must tell you that they are police and show you ID.
If an officer does not tell you all of these things the search is likely to be unlawful even if you haven’t asked for this information.
- The police CAN use reasonable force, as a last resort to detain you and carry out the search. If you are not resisting or obstructing the search and the police use force against you this is unlikely to be deemed reasonable.
- You CAN film the police and the search. The only exception is where the police believe that the video will be used for purposes of terrorism . It might be a good idea to get someone else, for example a friend who is not being searched or a member of public to film. Be aware that both you and anyone else filming or observing must not do anything that obstructs the police. This means no one should do anything that makes the task of the police more difficult to carry out their lawful duty. Anyone filming should stand out of the police’s way. If you are going to film the incident yourself, explain calmly that you are going to take your phone out to film and then slowly do this, without sudden movements.