Moving forward on stop and search

Not enough evidence to support new power to search young people for alcohol.

The Scottish Government has decided not to create a new power for police to search young people for alcohol, after listening to the views of young people as well as justice and children’s groups.

Responses to the consultation from 130 individuals and organisations, and conversations with young people with experience of being searched, found there is not enough evidence at this time to support a new power.

More evidence will be gathered for 12 months after a new ‘stop and search’ code of practice comes in to force next year, before the policy will be reviewed again.

A separate consultation on the new code found widespread support to extend it to specifically cover practice relating to children, adults at risk and vulnerable adults, and this will be taken forward.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:

“We know stop and search can be a valuable tool on combating crime, but it is important that we get the balance right between protecting the public and the rights of individuals.

“Maintaining trust between the police and the public is an important part of finding that balance and we have been listening to people’s views, including young people, about when and how stop and search should be used.

“Police Scotland are already phasing out the practice of non-statutory, or ‘consensual’ stop and search, following recommendations of the independent Advisory Group, ahead of the introduction of the new code from next year.

“We welcome the range of views provided, particularly over the issue of powers to search for alcohol. We want to make the right decision, which is why we will gather more evidence while the code of practice is in place before considering the issue further.”

John Scott QC, chair of the Advisory Group, said:

“When the Advisory Group recommended further consultation, we emphasised the importance of involving children and young people. What was arranged by the Scottish Government has captured our intention in a most impressive manner.

“This consultation exercise provides a new benchmark for consultation exercises involving and affecting children and young people. With the considerable assistance of individuals, groups and networks, we now have a much clearer idea of the impact of police activity, both positive and negative, on some of our younger citizens.

“Having participated in some of the consultation process, I have been impressed with the energy and enthusiasm, not only of the children and young people who participated but also of the government officials and officers of Police Scotland who took part. I am grateful to all who contributed.”

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said:

"Police Scotland welcomes this approach as this will allow proper assessment to be made using evidence gathered under the new working arrangements, once the Code of Practice and associated legislation comes into effect.

"While police officers require to have sufficient powers to allow them to intervene and recover alcohol, there is a balance to be struck between Police Scotland's absolute commitment to protect children and young people and ensuring that we maintain and sustain good relationships, trust and confidence.

"The views of children and young people are really important to Police Scotland and have helped shape new national training on the use of stop and search which is currently being rolled out to all officers in advance of the Code being introduced."


Analysis of consultation on police powers to search young people for alcohol:

Analysis of consultation on stop and search code of practice: 

The police already have powers to remove alcohol from children and young people in public, and an independent Stop and Search Advisory Group, chaired by John Scott QC, were unable to reach a collective view on whether a new search power was necessary or desirable. The group recommended the Scottish Government should carry out this consultation.

The situation will be re-assessed 12 months after the Code of Practice has been in force, with an interim assessment after six months, during which time a range of additional evidence will be gathered. This aligns with Police Scotland’s response to the consultation.

The Government has been consulting as part of its commitment to ensure police have appropriate powers to protect the public while providing robust safeguards around the use of stop and search.

The practice of stop and search allows police officers to search people for dangerous objects, drugs, stolen goods, weapons and other items. Once non-statutory (or consensual) stop and search ends, the Police will only be able to do this where they have reasonable grounds to suspect possession and specific statutory power to do so. A code of practice underpinning the use of stop and search is required under The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016.


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