In the year ending in March 2020, 23.8% of the 2189 stop and searches conducted by Northamptonshire Police were done on BAME people. As BAME people only account for 8.5% of the population this means that they are 3 times more likely to be stop and searched.
Although, this is a fall from last year, opponents of stop and search powers would argue that it remains that minority ethnic, in particular black people, are disproportionately victimised by stop and search. However, proponents of the practice would point out that does have an effect in reducing crime.
For now, stop and search schemes remain in place, and so it is important to know what rights you hold if you are to be stop and searched.
When you can be Stop and Searched?
Firstly, it is important to know when you can be stopped and searched. Legally speaking, you can only be searched if a police officer has “reasonable grounds” to suspect you’re carrying any of the following:
1) Illegal Drugs
2) A Weapon
3) Stolen Property
4) Something with could be used to commit a crime (i.e. bolt cutters, crowbar etc)
However, in some circumstances the officer can stop and search you without “reasonable grounds” if the search is approved by a senior police officer (often referred to as a Section 60 search) This can only occur when they the officer suspects that:
1) Serious violence could take place
2) You are carrying a weapon or have used one
3) You are in a specific location or area
What must happen in the search?
During a stop and search the officer must also perform various procedures to ensure that the search has been done lawfully. This means they must tell you the following details:
1) Their name and police station
2) What they expect to find
3) The reason they want to search you
4) Why they are legally allowed to search you (under what power)
5) That there will be a record of the search (which you should be supplied with)/how you can get a record
In some circumstances a police officer can ask you to remove some clothes, when stopping and searching you. This can include any religious clothing, such as a turban or veil. However, if they do remove such clothing, they must take you somewhere out of public view. Plus, if the officer wants to remove anything more than a coat, jacket and globes, then they must be of the same sex as you.
If you, have been stopped and searched and have any concerns that you weren’t treated in a fair and lawful manner or wish to make a complaint about a search, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us at the Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or ringing 01604 400808
Tom Spencer is a law student studying at City, University of London with a strong interest in public law. In his free time, he enjoys refereeing football games and playing cricket for his university. He also writes for a number of outlets regularly. You can find Tom on LinkedIn by clicking here