Stop and search

Stop and search

Stop and Search is a police power in England and Wales, allowing police officers to search members of the public for weapons, drugs, stolen property, terrorism-related evidence or evidence of other crimes. Police also have powers to enter and search premises.

Historical context

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) was enacted to correct perceived problems with the implementation of the powers previously granted to the police, the Judges' rules. The 'sus' law allowed police to stop, search, and then subsequently arrest a 'suspected person', due to perceived unfair implementation of this within the black community there were riots in some parts of the country in majority black areas (Brixton, Handsworth, Toxteth, Southall & Moss Side in the early 1980's). The law states that the grounds for a standard "stop & search" under s.1 PACE are limited to a situation when the officers have reasonable grounds for suspicion, this judgement is identical to that for arresting a suspect, these powers are similar to the US Probable cause and Reasonable suspicion.


Police officers and Police Community Support Officer have limited statutory stop and search powers. Consent in itself does not give rise to authority to search. Annex A and C of [ Code A] to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 list those powers. The following table lists only the main powers.

Conduct of a search

[ Code A] to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 governs the exercise of stop and search powers. Reasonable force may be used in the exercise of stop and search powers.Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, [ section 117] ]

If an officer uses Stop and Search powers, they must advise:
*The law under which they are stopping or searching you
*Their collar number and police station
*What they are looking for
*The reason for the stop (unless it is a terrorist stop)
*They should also advise that the subject has the right to be given a record of the search if they so wish.
*Advise the subject that they are detained for the duration of the stop

Rights of persons being searched

These rights are set out in Sections 2 and 3 of The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and are binding on all forms of stop and search, not only those authorised by Section 1 of that act.

*It is not necessary to give an officer one's name and address in a Stop and Search. Declining to provide this information is not a valid reason for arrest.
*If a subject refuses to be stopped, the police can use reasonable force to both stop and detain, so they can conduct a search.
*If police are searching for drugs, weapons or stolen property, they must have a reason for suspicion (such as a general description, your behaviour, or other intelligence) before they can make a search. If the Stop and Search is terrorism-related, then this is exempted from that rule.
*The officers making the search must use the Stop and Search powers fairly, responsibly and with respect for people without discrimination.
*If English is not the first language of a subject, and they do not understand why they have been stopped, reasonable steps must be taken to provide information in the subject's first language.
*The officer must make sure that the search time is kept to a minimum.
*The search must take place near where you are stopped, except in instances where moving a subject would protect their privacy.
*The police do not have the power to stop someone to find grounds for a search.

The Stop and Search Form

Officers are obliged to provide a form explaining the reason for the stop and giving contact information.

On occasions where officers are unable to provide the full form, for example if they receive a call they must urgently respond to, they are obliged to provide a receipt instead. This acts as a record of the stop, and a full form can be subsequently obtained from a police station anytime within the next twelve months by providing this receipt.


External links

* [ Home Office Stop and Search website]
* [ Citizens Advice Bureau Stop and Search Entry ]

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