Stop & Search Cards


Uncovering Crimes

1. The Phillips Commission (1980) showed that 75-80% of crimes are reported to the police by members of the public, and therefore the number of crimes the police uncover themselves are very low.

2. Sanders et al noted that recently the Police have moved from a purely reactive role to one of “reassuring” and calming more generalised anxieties than waiting for specific incidents (2010).

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Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Section 1

Allows a constable to stop and search a person or vehicle in a place to which the public has access (s 1(1) and (2)) provided he has reasonable grounds he will find stolen articles, prohibited articles or an article related to an offence under s 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, or under the Criminal justice Act 2003 articles intended to cause criminal damage. 

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PACE A General Notes

-          “Powers to stop and search must be used fairly, responsibly, with respect for people being searched and without unlawful discrimination” – para 2.2 (but Lewis et al. (2011) found that a black person was 30 times more likely to be searched under s. 60 CJPOA 1994).

-          “the intrusion on the liberty of the person stopped or searched must be brief and detention for the purposes of the search mist take place at or near the location of the stop”

The purpose of S and S is to enable officers to allay or confirm suspicions about individuals without exercising their power to arrest.

A persons consent is not enough to search someone, there must be a pre-existing police power to search.

Two broad types of S and S: 1. Based on “reasonable suspicion” 2. Where there is no requirement of “reasonable suspicion” 

Sanders and Young say whilst Code safeguards should make it DP, the way it is actually carried out is clearly CC (2010) due to the reliance on “cop culture”. 

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PACE A Section 1

Section 1 allows a constable to stop and search a person or vehicle in a place to which the public have access provided he has reasonable grounds (for suspecting he will find stolen articles, prohibited articles, or an article relating to offences under s.139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. And since the Criminal Justice Act 2003 added items intended for causing criminal damage and the SOC and Police Act 2005 added fireworks.

Reasonable Suspicion Required – however Quinton, Bland & Miller (2000) found that many officers do not understand the legal requirements for reasonable suspicion and instead based their stops on things such as age, clothing, behaviour, being known to the police and being out at “unusual times”. (Ethnic minorities whilst not specifically targeted were often stopped more because of their clothing, or times they were out). 

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General Conditions for Searches (PACE ss2-5/CODE A

They can be carried out in public places: any place with which the public have access but not a dwelling.

However there is an exception, under S 60 (1) Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994,  an officer of rank inspector or above can authorise police officers to stop and search people/vehicles for offensive weapons or dangerous instruments provided that he reasonable believes:

1.       That incidents involving serious incidents may take place in any locality in his phone area

2.       That persons are carrying such items in his police area without good reason

This was extended by S87 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 to allow authorization where he reasonably believes that an incident involving serious violence has taken place in that area. This therefore means in these situations no individual reasonable suspicion is needed.

CODE A sets out some protected characteristics which cannot be used to as reasonable grounds for a stop and search.  

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Remedies for non-compliance with Codes of Practice

PACE s 67(10) states that police are not automatically liable for civil or criminal proceedings for not following a code of practice. Sanders and Young (2006) argue that the cost of bringing a claim, and the impossibility of finding prove are unsurmountable burdens for public. 

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Notification and Recording

S2 of PACE require PO’s to identify themselves, explain why the search is taking place and the grounds for it. It also states that you do not have to search someone once they have been stopped if it subsequently becomes clear that they are not required. Code A para 2.9 sets out that the stop and subsequent questioning cannot be grounds for a search.

S3 of PACE sets out that constables must make a record of the search at the time, or next appropriate time. And it must include the following information – object of search, grounds, date and time and place, ethnicity of PO and person being searched, identity of PO doing search. 

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Community support officers are private police personal with some police powers issued under S 38 of the Police Reform Act 2002. Chief PO’s are allowed to confer powers onto PCSOs to issue fixed penalty notices, confiscate alcohol and demand name and address of persons. 

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PACE CODE A 1.1 - 1.3

1.1 Powers to stop and search must be used fairly, responsibly, with respect for people being searched and without unlawful discrimination. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 makes it unlawful for police officers to discriminate on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality or national origins when using their powers.

1.2 The intrusion on the liberty of the person stopped or searched must be brief and detention for the purposes of a search must take place at or near the location of the stop.

1.3 If these fundamental principles are not observed the use of powers to stop and search may be drawn into question. Failure to use the powers in the proper manner reduces their effectiveness. Stop and search can play an important role in the detection and prevention of crime, and using the powers fairly makes them more effective.

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PACE CODE A 1.4 - 1.5

1.4 The primary purpose of stop and search powers is to enable officers to allay or confirm suspicions about individuals without exercising their power of arrest. Officers may be required to justify the use or authorisation of such powers, in relation both to individual searches and the overall pattern of their activity in this regard, to their supervisory officers or in court. Any misuse of the powers is likely to be harmful to policing and lead to mistrust of the police. Officers must also be able to explain their actions to the member of the public searched. The misuse of these powers can lead to disciplinary action.

1.5 An officer must not search a person, even with his or her consent, where no power to search is applicable. Even where a person is prepared to submit to a search voluntarily, the person must not be searched unless the necessary legal power exists, and the search must be in accordance with the relevant power and the provisions of this Code. The only exception, where an officer does not require a specific power, applies to searches of persons entering sports grounds or other premises carried out with their consent given as a condition of entry

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PACE A S 2.2 -2.3

2.2 Reasonable grounds for suspicion depend on the circumstances in each case.There must be an objective basis for that suspicion based on facts, information, and/or intelligence which are relevant to the likelihood of finding an article of a certain kind or, in the case of searches under section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000, to the likelihood that the person is a terrorist. Reasonable suspicion can never be supported on the basis of personal factors. It must rely on intelligence or information about, or some specific behaviour by, the person concerned. For example, other than in a witness description of a suspect, a person’s race, age, appearance, or the fact that the person is known to have a previous conviction, cannot be used alone or in combination with each other, or in combination with any other factor, as the reason for searching that person. Reasonable suspicion cannot be based on generalisations or stereotypical images of certain groups or categories of people as more likely to be involved in criminal activity. A person’s religion cannot be considered as reasonable grounds for suspicion and should never be considered as a reason to stop or stop and search an individual.

2.3 Reasonable suspicion can sometimes exist without specific information or intelligence and on the basis of the behaviour of a person. For example, if an officer encounters someone on the street at night who is obviously trying to hide something, the officer may (depending on the other surrounding circumstances) base such suspicion on the fact that this kind of behaviour is often linked to stolen or prohibited articles being carried. Similarly, for the purposes of section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000, suspicion that a person is a terrorist may arise from the person’s behaviour at or near a location which has been identified as a potential target for terrorists. 

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PACE A S 2.9

2.9 An officer who has reasonable grounds for suspicion may detain the person concerned in orderto carry out a search. Before carrying out a search the officer may ask questions about the person’s behaviour or presence in circumstances which gave rise to the suspicion. As a result of questioning the detained person, the reasonable grounds for suspicion necessary to detain that person may be confirmed or, because of a satisfactory explanation, be eliminated. [See Notes 2 and 3] Questioning may also reveal reasonable grounds to suspect the possession of a different kind of unlawful article from that originally suspected. Reasonable grounds for suspicion however cannot be provided retrospectively by such questioning during a person’s detention or by refusal to answer any questions put.

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PACE A 2.12-2.13

Searches authorised under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

2.12 Authority for a constable in uniform to stop and search under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 may be given if the authorising officer reasonably believes: (a) that incidents involving serious violence may take place in any locality in the officer’s police area, and it is expedient to use these powers to prevent their occurrence, or (b) that persons are carrying dangerous instruments or offensive weapons without good reason in any locality in the officer’s police area.

2.13 An authorisation under section 60 may only be given by an officer of the rank of inspector or above, in writing, specifying the grounds on which it was given, the locality in which the powers may be exercised and the period of time for which they are in force. The period authorised shall be no longer than appears reasonably necessary to prevent, or seek to prevent incidents of serious violence, or to deal with the problem of carrying dangerous instruments or offensive weapons. It may not exceed 24 hours. [See Notes 10-13]

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PACE A Section 3

Section 3: Conduct of Searches

3.1 All stops and searches must be carried out with courtesy, consideration and respect for the person concerned. This has a significant impact on public confidence in the police.Every reasonable effort must be made to minimise the embarrassment that a person being searched may experience.

3.2 The co-operation of the person to be searched must be sought in every case, even if the person initially objects to the search. A forcible search may be made only if it has been established that the person is unwilling to co-operate or resists. Reasonable force may be used as a last resort if necessary to conduct a search or to detain a person or vehicle for the purposes of a search.

3.5 There is no power to require a person to remove any clothing in public other than an outer coat, jacket or gloves, except under section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (which empowers a constable to require a person to remove any item worn to conceal identity).

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PACE A 3.8-3.9

3.8 Before any search of a detained person or attended vehicle takes place the officer must take reasonable steps to give the person to be searched or in charge of the vehicle the following information: (a) that they are being detained for the purposes of a search (b) the officer’s name (except in the case of enquiries linked to the investigation of terrorism, or otherwise where the officer reasonably believes that giving his or her name might put him or her in danger, in which case a warrant or other identification number shall be given) and the name of the police station to which the officer is attached; (c) the legal search power which is being exercised; and (d) a clear explanation of: (i) the purpose of the search in terms of the article or articles for which there is a power to search; and (ii) in the case of powers requiring reasonable suspicion 

3.9 Officers not in uniform must show their warrant cards. Stops and searches under the powers mentioned in paragraphs 2.1(b), and (c) may be undertaken only by a constable in uniform.

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Case Law

Samuels v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis Court of Appeal (Civil Division) [1999] The court held that if the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion then the search was unlawful, and if this was the case, Samuels had the right to defend himself as if any other citizen was attempting to act in such a way (the police are seen as civilians with special powers).

The Conduct of the Search

-       If the officer is in plain clothes, they must produce a warrant card

-          Notification Requirements: Explain the purposes of the search, Give name and station to which attached, State legal search power being exercised, State object of the search, State the basis of the reasonable suspicion, Provisions surrounding access to record of the search

-          R v Bristol [2007] - Convicted of obstructing a police officer when they tried to perform a drug search, A police officer did not follow the notification requirements, The courts found in Bristol’s favour 

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DPP v Avery [2001]

Avery had been taking part in a demonstration at a site where dogs were being bred for animal testing. She was wearing a skeleton mask which she was asked to remove by a police officer. She refused, and the officer tried to grab the mask. Avery punched the officer, and but was not convicted because the magistrates court held the officer had failed to fulfil then notifications requirements. The DPP’s appeal was upheld, and it was held that Police Officers do not need to comply with section 2 notification requirements when removing disguises. 

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