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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. A police officer has powers to stop and search you, but only 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 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
  • If the stop and search was unlawful in the first place, then there may be a claim against the police 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.

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

Our unlawful search claim specialists are part of our London based actions against police team. We have almost four decades of experience helping clients from around the UK with a wide variety of legal matters. For expert legal advice use our contact form or call us on 0808 250 6017 today.