Consultation on a Draft Code of Practice for Stop and Search: Analysis of Responses

Analysis of consultation responses received on the draft code of practice for stop and search.

6 Local scrutiny of stop and search (Q4)

6.1 Section 7 of the draft Code outlined requirements relating to monitoring and supervising stop and search activity. It set out roles for frontline supervising officers and senior officers with force-wide responsibilities. The section also outlined requirements relating to the collection and publication of statistics on stop and search. The Code did not, however, set out any requirements relating to the external scrutiny of stop and search activity, although there are already existing arrangements for local scrutiny of policing in general.

6.2 The consultation asked if the Code should include a section on local public scrutiny, and what the arrangements for carrying out such scrutiny should be:

Question 4: Should the Code of Practice include a section about local public scrutiny of how stop and search is used? (Yes / No)

Question 4a: If you answered YES to Q4 - do you think the existing local scrutiny arrangements should be used, or do you have any other suggestions?

6.3 Thirty-one respondents (21 individuals and 10 organisations) answered Question 4. Three-quarters of respondents (74%; 23 out of 31) thought that the Code should include a section on local public scrutiny, with organisations somewhat more likely than individuals to give this view (80% compared to 71%). See Table 6.1.

Table 6.1: Q4 - Should the Code of Practice include a section about local public scrutiny of how stop and search is used?

Respondent type































6.4 Twenty-four respondents (12 individuals and 12 organisations) made comments at Question 4a. Comments covered the following main issues: reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with the inclusion of a separate section on local public scrutiny; the scrutiny arrangements which should be in place (including views on whether existing arrangements should be used); and information and dissemination. Each of these is addressed in turn below. A final section considers other comments made by respondents.

Views on a separate section on local public scrutiny

6.5 Respondents who agreed and respondents who disagreed with the inclusion of a section on local public scrutiny offered reasons for their views.

6.6 Those who supported inclusion of a separate section in the Code thought that this approach would:

  • Indicate the importance attached to public scrutiny of the police
  • Help foster public confidence in the police and its approach to using stop and search
  • Be helpful to local scrutiny committees and elected representatives.

6.7 Those who did not support a separate section felt that current arrangements for local scrutiny of police activity should apply and, as such, there was no need for this to be covered in the Code as requirements were already laid out in the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act (section 45). There was an additional concern that inclusion in the stop and search Code could, in fact, lead to confusion on this point.

6.8 Although not all respondents agreed with the need for a separate section in the Code, there was, nevertheless, widespread endorsement of the importance of local scrutiny of stop and search activity. The point was also made, however, that it was important that the police acted on the findings of local scrutiny by making changes to procedures and practices.

Local scrutiny arrangements

6.9 Those who endorsed the use of existing local arrangements highlighted what they saw as key features of the current system, arguing that local scrutiny boards:

  • Were well-established statutory vehicles for local scrutiny of policing which provided the opportunity to hold senior police personnel to account
  • Involved senior police commanders and an appropriate - albeit varied - range of local stakeholders and elected representatives, and were accessible to the public
  • Had access to relevant information.

6.10 One respondent noted, however, that steps would have to be taken to ensure that stop and search was sufficiently covered by current local arrangements.

6.11 A few respondents expressed concerns or reservations about using current local arrangements as they thought that this would inhibit effective scrutiny and public confidence, arguing that local scrutiny boards:

  • May be 'too close' to the police
  • Did not reflect the communities affected by the use of stop and search.

6.12 A range of respondents offered suggestions as to how existing local arrangements might be enhanced, often in ways which might address the concerns noted above.

6.13 Most commonly, respondents emphasised the importance of involving a wide range of individuals and groups in the scrutiny process. Specific suggestions included:

  • Members of the wider community, including those most likely to experience stop and search
  • Schools / education establishments
  • Health / care commissioning groups
  • Representatives of minority or equality groups
  • Parents and children and young people - the importance of using creative ways to effectively engage this latter group in the scrutiny process was noted.

6.14 Alongside the suggestions for community involvement of various types, there was also a note of caution, with respondents stressing that clarity of purpose, transparency and accountability ( e.g. in relation to which groups were involved and how they were selected) were also essential to effective local scrutiny.

6.15 Respondents identified a range of mechanisms and methods which might be used to improve local scrutiny. These were each mentioned by one or two respondents only and included :

  • Scrutiny of police records
  • Citizens' panels offering a second line of scrutiny to that offered by local scrutiny bodies
  • Lay observation of police activity or of probationary or leadership training programmes
  • The establishment of 'triggers', based on the number of stop and searches carried out or the number of complaints received, which might then lead to additional investigation.

6.16 The English and Welsh guidance Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme [15] and Northamptonshire Police's Reasonable Grounds Panels were both noted as offering possible learning points in developing scrutiny of stop and search activity.

Information for scrutiny purposes

6.17 Good quality information, statistics and analysis were widely seen to be essential for monitoring and scrutiny, and for ensuring that the use of stop and search by the police is justifiable and understood. It was also agreed that information and statistics on stop and search should be published.

6.18 Respondents made a few more specific points about information recording and analysis as follows:

  • The Code should include details about information to be recorded on stop and searches that do not result in arrest in order to monitor for potential discrimination.
  • Data on stop and search should be recorded in a way which allowed analysis by different protected characteristics.
  • There should be analysis and reporting of complaints relating to stop and search activities.
  • Video evidence might form part of the data collected on stop and search activity. (The use of video recording was noted in response to other consultation questions too, as a possible way of providing evidence on how searches are conducted and whether individuals' rights are being respected.)


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