Unlawful Searches

The lawful and proper use of stop and search powers is essential to the maintenance of public confidence and community acceptance of the police. Police officers have powers to stop and search members of the public, but only in given circumstances and under strict conditions. In most cases, the officer searching must have reasonable suspicion that the person they are stopping is carrying a stolen or prohibited item (e.g. drugs or weapons). According to a report by the independent watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, over a quarter of searches did not comply with this requirement.

Police officers are also under an obligation to provide information to the person they are searching, including the officer’s name, their shoulder number or the station they are based at, the law they are using, the reason for the search, what they are looking for, and why they have chosen to search that person. They are not entitled to ask the person to remove more than outer layers of clothing in view of the public, and also cannot usually require the person to give their name or address.

If a search does not comply with these rules, it is likely to be unlawful. Our solicitors have specialist knowledge of stop and search laws and will be happy to discuss a challenge to the police on your behalf if you have been searched without reasonable grounds.

Sometimes, a stop and search can lead to a situation escalating. If the initial stop and search was unlawful, then this may give rise to a claim. For example:

  • Where the person being searched does not co-operate and the police then use force to carry out the search, e.g. handcuffs, there may be a claim for assault.
  • Where the person being searched is arrested for an offence, such as obstructing a constable. Again, if the initial stop and search was unlawful, then the person may have a claim for false imprisonment in relation to the time they are detained by police.

We have pursued complaints with police forces directly and taken appeals to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, as well as winning a number of civil cases arising from stop and search encounters. In a recent case, our representations resulted in a number of police officers facing misconduct proceedings.

In addition, members of our team are involved in campaigning and educational work around stop and search, including Stop and Search Legal Project.

Read our page on Your Rights to find out more about police powers to stop and search.

Our Civil Liberties & Human Rights Solicitors are backed by four decades of experience and have a strong track record of achieving favourable client outcomes. For expert legal advice use our contact form or call us on 0808 231 6369 today.

Request a FREE callback

Fill out this form and one of the team will get back to you:

By ticking the following box I am giving Hodge Jones and Allen consent to process my personal data for the purpose of this enquiry.

Full details of our privacy policy is available here

Call us on:

Our offices are open from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm.

Phone:0808 231 6369
Fax:020 7388 2106
Address:Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors
180 North Gower Street