At our last NAC Police and Fire & Rescue committee on 12th February  I raised the issue of stop and search of young people, my primary concern was around whether or not young people could give informed consent to searches if they were not fully aware of their rights on the matter.  On the back of hearing that in Irvine only 1 in 4 searches were successful myself and colleagues on the committee were also keen to hear how these searches were monitored and scrutinised.  As the matter was subject to the Scottish Police Authority review we agreed to pick the matter up again once, their report was published. 

At committee on 4th June we were joined by Douglas Yates from the Scottish Police Authority who spoke briefly to their findings.  We also heard from Chief Superintendent Macdonald that officers in North Ayrshire had began work in our schools to inform young people of their rights and responsibilities around Stop and Search.  This work is to be applauded, we have nothing to fear from any citizens being fully aware of their rights.  I have asked the police to consider extending this to young people not currently engaged in our education system too.

It is very clear to me that operational policing matters are best left to Police officers and can see that Stop and Search is a useful tool in the fight against crime and goal of keeping us all safe.  However, I am firmly of the belief power should be open to scrutiny and challenge, I welcome the recommendations made by the SPA.

The Scottish Police Authority has published 12 recommendations aimed at improving the targeting, effectiveness, and transparency of the use of stop and search tactics by Police Scotland.
Publishing the results of its scrutiny review of stop and search, the SPA has acknowledged the contribution that stop and search makes to tackling violence and antisocial behaviour in Scotland.
However, it has highlighted a number of areas for improvement around targeting, proportionality, training, data gathering, transparency and consent.
Key recommendations include:
  • improved data collection and analysis by Police Scotland, to make stronger the connection between intelligence, the threat of crime, and the stop and search activity undertaken,
  • increased public reporting of stop and search data to enhance transparency and build public confidence,
  • a shift towards informed consent in non-statutory stop and search to ensure the public are better informed of their rights, including the right to decline.
The review also highlights the need for wider policy consideration within the criminal justice system around the lack of statutory powers to search for alcohol, and the need for more research on the long-term impact of stop and search on particular groups and communities, especially younger people.
The review found that:
– Police Scotland annually invest approximately 250,000 hours of police officer time to stop and search;
– stop and search activity does contribute to detecting and preventing criminal and antisocial behaviour, but It is not always clearly set out, for officers or communities, where the objective of stop and search in an area is to deter crime or where it is to reduce crime;
– there is no evidence of the disproportionate targeting of minority ethnic communities in Scotland;
– there has been a substantial fall in the number of stop and searches carried out in Glasgow, offset nationally by considerable increases in volumes in command areas in the north and east of Scotland;
– those young people aged 15-19 years are most likely to be stopped, with 223 children aged 9 or under also recorded as having been stopped and searched;
– although there is no statutory search power for alcohol, the majority of searches are for alcohol and the majority of detections are for alcohol (12 times the recovery rate for weapons);
– while most officers were clear of the need to target activity on the right person, in the right place at the right time, some officers perceived pressure to conduct a certain number of searches, and;
– the extent to which stop and search contributes to falling violence is not clear, with areas such as Grampian and Strathclyde experiencing comparable falls in violent crime with very different rates of stop and search activity.