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Stop and Search review 02/04/2015 A new independent advisory group is to be established to examine the use of stop and search powers in Scotland.

Stop and Search review

A new independent advisory group, chaired by prominent solicitor advocate John Scott QC, is to be established to examine the use of stop and search powers in Scotland.

The new Stop and Search Advisory Group has been established after Police Scotland issued a report earlier this week confirming that from now on there will be a presumption against consensual – or non-statutory – stop and search for all age groups. The police report also confirms that children under 12 will not be subject to consensual stop and search.

Another report on the issue, a review by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), has also been published.

The new advisory group will be asked to make recommendations to Scottish Ministers, including:

  • whether the permanent presumption against consensual stop and search for all ages goes far enough;
  • whether, further to that, there should be an absolute cessation of the practice;
  • any additional steps that require to be taken, including any consequent legislation or change in practice that might be necessary; and
  • on the development of a draft Code of Practice that will underpin the use of stop and search in Scotland.

The Advisory Group, which will have a broad membership, will make recommendations to Scottish Ministers by August 2015. This timescale would allow any possible legislative changes to be included as part of proposals for the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.

“The last year has seen considerable publicity regarding “stop and search” by police officers,” said Stop and Search Advisory Group Chair John Scott QC, who is also chairman of Howard League Scotland, and Vice President (Crime) of the Society of Solicitor Advocates. “Subsequent scrutiny has revealed considerable uncertainty and confusion on the part of the public, and even the police, as to when stop/search is justified and how it should be done when it is considered necessary.”

“This is an area in which it is important to strike a balance between, on the one hand, allowing the police to continue to address crime in all its aspects, including prevention and deterrence, and, on the other, the right of the public, including our young people, to go about their daily lives untroubled by unjustified police activity,” he explained. 

“Striking a proper balance is not possible while confusion continues,” he warned. “I welcome the invitation of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to chair this advisory group and hope to assist in providing some clarity in this important area, in order that our Parliament can set the appropriate limits for police activity, leaving the police to concentrate on operational matters within more clearly defined boundaries.”

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