Stop and Search


We all know that stop and searches are a powerful tool used by the police. But do you know what the police are allowed to do when they stop and search you? And would you feel comfortable challenging an officer if you felt that something was not quite right?

Police powers of stop and search can be found in the PACE Codes of Practice (Code A). A set of rules regulating police powers. It is quite a long read so here is a rundown of everything you need to know.

If you ever get stopped and searched, just remember GO WISELY. These are the basics that police officers should be doing. If they do not, it could result in an unlawful and unnecessary search.

GROUNDS – they must tell you why you have been stopped and why they have reason to suspect that you are the person who has been reported to them. The grounds must be reasonable and they cannot stop you based on stereotypes (although we know that this isn’t always the case).

OBJECT – they must declare the object of the search. Put simply, they must explain what it is they’re looking for.

WARRANT CARD – if the police officer is in plain clothes they must show you their warrant card. If they are uniformed, you may ask to see their warrant card.

IDENTIFY – the police officer must identify themselves to you. Who they are, rank number etc.

STATION – they must tell you which station the officer is attached to.

ENTITLEMENT TO A COPY OF THE SEARCH RECORD – this is almost a receipt of your search. They must record in writing, the details of your search. Your details, date, time, location of the search, your description. You are entitled to a copy of this, so don’t be afraid to ask for it,

LEGAL POWER – which search power are they using? You do not necessarily need to know every search power BUT the officer must tell you which law they are searching you under e.g. they are searching for illegal drugs under section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

“YOU ARE BEING DETAINED FOR THE PURPOSES OF A SEARCH” – they must tell you this. Before they start to search you they may ask you further questions e.g. do you have anything sharp, or anything likely to hurt the officer.


What can they ask me to remove?

They cannot ask you to remove anything other than an outer jacket, outer garments (handbag, suitcase, bag), gloves.

Can they strip search me?

If they are seeking to remove anything other than the above, they must take you to a police station/suitable private place where they can carry out an intimate search. Intimate searches must be carried out by officer of same sex.

Can they use force?

They can use reasonable force to search you. “Reasonable” depends on the circumstances.

How do I report the police for an unlawful search?

Report to IPCC – could result in action against the police, or disciplinary proceedings. They could also be committing a criminal offence.

What happens if I am arrested after the search? Immediately seek legal advice. It is your RIGHT to have access to free and independent advice. Do not fall for the police telling you that your solicitors will be hours or pressuring you to proceed with the interview.

Article by Miss Emin Kandola, Barrister (Maidstone Chambers) 

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