Police don’t know how many suspects refuse stop and search

2 May 2014

Police have no idea how many people who refuse to be stop-and-searched are then allowed to go on their way unchallenged, it has emerged.

There are two types of stop-and-search powers officers can use – non-statutory and statutory – when dealing with people they suspect to be carrying illegal items.

But when asked under Freedom of Information to clarify how many non-statutory searches became statutory ones when individuals declined consent to be searched, Police Scotland said the information wasn’t recorded centrally.

Instead, the force said, officers simply record the outcome in their notepad.

The Scottish Conservatives have argued that it is essential to know the breakdown in order to understand the wider impact of stop and search north of the border.

Justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell is writing to both justice secretary Kenny MacAskill and the Scottish Police Authority asking for the process to be reviewed and included in a delayed report into stop and search which is now expected later this month.

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell MSP said:

“We need to know how many people are refusing these consensual searches, and what proportion of those incidents lead to mandatory ones.

“Stop and search is a very valuable tool to detect and deter crime, but only if used proportionately and not abused.

“Equally, it would make a mockery of the justice system if suspected criminals were found to be dictating terms to the police.

“And without these statistics, it is impossible to assess how stop and search is working in practice.

“To say police jot these incidents down but they are not recorded beyond that is quite simply unacceptable.

“We want stop and search to remain a valuable tool to detect and deter crime, but to achieve this objective the process has to be transparent and accountable.”





Below is a response from Police Scotland to the Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Conservatives:
 1) In how many non-statutory stop and searches has consent been refused
since 1 April 2013?
 2) In how many non-statutory stop and searches was consent refused, and then a statutory search undertaken, since 1 April 2013?
 3) How many of the statutory searches carried out after consent for a non- statutory search was refused, resulted in a positive find e.g. the carrying of a knife, possession of a drug or alcohol etc.
 @PoliceScotland PoliceScotland NOT PROTECTIVELY MARKED
With regards to the number of Stop and Searches where consent has been refused, I must respond in terms of Section 12 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act: Excessive Cost of Compliance. Refused Stop and Searches are not recorded on force systems. It is regarded as best practice for an Officer to note a refused search in their notebook/PDA, however this is not searchable. Every Officers’ notebook/PDA would need to be manually searched in order to ascertain how many were refused. I am afraid that this would take a very long time to carry out, and would result in this question being exempt under the above legislation.
When looking at Questions 2 and 3 of your request I must state that if a person refuses a consensual “Stop and Search” this cannot be used to justify a legislative or “statutory” search. Therefore, in regards to these two questions I must on this occasion reply in terms of Section 17 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act: Information Not Held.