Bullying and Lies - Stop and Search in Scotland must change

Following the admission by Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Stephen House, that official stop and search figures include fabricated data, SACC calls for a clean-up of stop and search practices in Scotland.

In an interview with the Sunday Herald, Stephen House acknowledged that some stop and searches had been "made up". But when police released their stop and search figures in January this year, they did so without any qualification. It now seems that they may have knowingly misled the public.

The fabricated stop and search records appear to be the result of pressure placed on police officers by senior staff to carry out more searches.

Police Scotland say that they carried out 519,213 stop and searches between April and December 2013. They say that 70% of these searches were carried out with the "consent" of the person concerned, rather than under legislation that empowers police to insist on a search where they have reasonable grounds for suspicion. Police in England and Wales are prohibited from carrying out searches except in circumstances where the law explicitly empowers them to do so.

SACC is now calling for a thorough overhaul of stop and search policy in Scotland. There should be a ban on so-called "consensual" searches; officers should be instructed to inform people they stop of their legal rights; and officers should not be pressured into trying to meet numerical targets.

Richard Haley, Chair of SACC, said:

"The Scottish Parliament must enact legislation to give Scots the protection against police abuse that people in England and Wales have enjoyed since 2002. They need to ban the police from searching people except under the circumstances explicitly set out in law.

"The present situation is unacceptable. Pressure from managers for a high search count has led to police officers bullying people into agreeing to be searched, and misinforming people of their rights under the law. Now it turns out that it has also led to individual police officers fabricating records, and has led the police to release figures that they must have known were unreliable.

"If police operated within the law, there would no question of quotas - written or unwritten - and no incentive for police officers to lie. The law empowers police to carry out searches where they have reasonable grounds for suspicion. It makes no sense to issue a target for how often a police officer should have his or her suspicions aroused. Police should investigate suspected crime, respect people's rights and conduct themselves honestly. Current stop and search policy discourages police from behaving in this way. It has to change."

Notes

  • The Sunday Herald report referred to above can be found at Police chief admits to fake stop and search figures
  • Non-statutory stop and search is prohibited in England and Wales under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) (Statutory Powers of Stop and Search) Order 2002
  • Figures for stop and search in Scotland can be found in a Scottish Police Press Release issued on 15 January 2014
  • SACC called for an end to non-statutory stop and search in a press release issued on 23 January 2014