Publication - Consultation analysis

Consultation on Police Powers to Search Children and Young People for Alcohol: Analysis of Responses

Published: 4 Nov 2016
Safer Communities Directorate
Part of:
Children and families, Law and order

Analysis of consultation responses received.

38 page PDF

769.9 kB

38 page PDF

769.9 kB

Consultation on Police Powers to Search Children and Young People for Alcohol: Analysis of Responses
1 Introduction and policy context

38 page PDF

769.9 kB

1 Introduction and policy context

1.1 Between 21 March and 15 July 2016, the Scottish Government undertook a public consultation on whether the police should have legal powers to stop and search children and young people for alcohol, or people suspected of supplying children with alcohol. [2] This report presents findings from the analysis of the responses to the consultation.

Policy context

1.2 The use of stop and search in Scotland has been the subject of some debate over recent years. Currently in Scotland there are two types of stop and search: statutory and non-statutory (or consensual). There are a number of laws - such as the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 - which give the police the power to search a person in specific situations. This is known as statutory stop and search. In addition, a person can be searched with their consent in circumstances not covered by a specific law. This is known as non-statutory, or consensual, stop and search.

1.3 There is currently no statutory police power to search children and young people for alcohol, but they can be searched under the current arrangements for consensual stop and search.

1.4 Although stop and search is recognised as a useful tool for the police in carrying out their work, it is also a sensitive issue and it is important to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the public, detecting and preventing crime, and protecting the rights of individuals subject to stop and search procedures.

1.5 There have been a number of reviews of the use of stop and search in Scotland in recent years (undertaken by Police Scotland, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, and the Scottish Police Authority), and Police Scotland have taken action to address the concerns raised. Steps taken have included carrying out a pilot exercise in Fife in 2014 focusing on improving stop and search data, and enhancing accountability and public confidence, and publishing a Police Scotland improvement plan in 2015 which takes forward the recommendations emerging from the work undertaken so far. [3]

1.6 In March 2015 the Scottish Government invited an Independent Advisory Group, chaired by John Scott QC and involving experts (practitioners, policy makers and academics) from the fields of policing, law enforcement and children's rights, to consider long-term policy and practice on stop and search. The Advisory Group had a particular focus on (i) consensual stop and search and (ii) the development of a Code of Practice to underpin the use of stop and search by the police in Scotland.

1.7 The Advisory Group recommended an end to consensual stop and search, and produced a draft Code of Practice which would underpin the continuing use of statutory stop and search. The report issued by the Advisory Group, however, highlighted the absence of an existing statutory power to search children and young people for alcohol as a potential legislative gap once consensual stop and search comes to end. The Advisory Group spent time considering the possible implications of this, and the option of introducing a new statutory power for the police to stop and search young people for alcohol. They identified a range of arguments for and against such a new power, but were unable to reach a consensus on this issue and recommended further consultation on the matter. [4]

1.8 Subsequent to the work of the Advisory Group, the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 made several changes to the law regarding stop and search in line with the recommendations made. The Act introduced a statutory requirement for a Code of Practice; it also made provision for bringing an end to the use of non-statutory stop and search in Scotland, once the Code of Practice is in place (anticipated to be in 2017). This would mean that it was no longer possible to stop and search a child or young person for alcohol unless a new statutory power is introduced.

1.9 The consultation issued by the Scottish Government in March 2016, thus, follows on from the work carried out by the Advisory Group, and sought views on the option of introducing a statutory power to stop and search children for alcohol, or those suspected of supplying children with alcohol. The consultation is one of two consultations arising from the work of the Advisory Group. The draft Code of Practice produced by the Advisory Group has been the focus of a separate consultation which has run concurrently with the consultation on a statutory power for searching children and young people for alcohol. [5]

About the consultation

1.10 The consultation paper included a description of the work of the Advisory Group and provided an overview of information and evidence on the links between alcohol and violent and criminal behaviour, the Scottish Government's approach to addressing alcohol misuse, current police powers relevant to this issue, and the powers actually used to recover alcohol. It also presented a summary of the arguments for and against new powers to stop and search children and young people for alcohol. The relevant section from the Advisory Group's report was included as an annex to the consultation paper.

1.11 The consultation paper contained four questions - three closed (tick-box) questions and one open question inviting further relevant information. The questions asked for views on whether new police powers would safeguard children and young people from risks associated with alcohol consumption, and whether such powers might have negative effects. The consultation invited respondents to provide any evidence, information and views relevant to the issue.

1.12 The Government was keen to hear the views of children and young people on this issue and an 'easy-read' summary of the consultation paper was included.

1.13 The consultation was available on the Scottish Government website and consultation hub, from 21 March to 15 July 2016. The consultation paper invited people to contact the Scottish Government if they wanted someone from the Government to visit their organisation to talk about the consultation and to hear their views and / or the views of young people who they work with. Several organisations took up this offer. A list of the organisations that Scottish Government officials met with during the course of the consultation is included at Annex 1.

1.14 In addition, the Scottish Government encouraged stakeholder organisations to carry out their own consultations with children and young people, and a number of such meetings and activities took place.

About the analysis

1.15 Both quantitative and qualitative analysis was undertaken in relation to the responses received, with the emphasis on exploring the views of respondents as presented in the comments submitted to the consultation.

1.16 The results of the frequency analysis of the responses to the three tick-box questions included in the consultation is shown in tables in each of the main chapters ( Chapters 3 to 5). The tables include a small number of imputed responses (i.e. responses derived from comments provided by respondents who did not provide an answer to the tick-box question itself).

1.17 The tick-box questions provided the framework for the qualitative analysis of the comments provided in response to Question 4. There is no separate reporting of the analysis of material submitted in response to Question 4, as all the comments made and evidence submitted were relevant to one or more of the three tick-box questions (Questions 1 to 3).

1.18 The analysis is based on the responses submitted to the consultation. Given the self-selected nature of the respondents, it is important to note that the views presented here should not be seen as representative of the views of the wider population.

Structure of the report

1.19 The remainder of the report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 presents information on the respondents and responses to the consultation.
  • Chapters 3 to 5 present the results of the analysis of the responses to the consultation questions.
  • Annexes 1 to 4 present a summary of meetings held as part of the consultation ( Annex 1), the response rates for individual questions ( Annex 2), a full list of organisational respondents ( Annex 3), and a list of published evidence cited by respondents ( Annex 4).