Chief constable to be quizzed over stop-and-search

Sir Stephen House is due to appear at a specially-called meeting of the  SPA to discuss the controversial practice. Picture: TSPL
Sir Stephen House is due to appear at a specially-called meeting of the SPA to discuss the controversial practice. Picture: TSPL
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THE CHIEF constable will face questions today on the past and future use of consensual stop-and-search in Scotland.

Sir Stephen House is due to appear at a specially-called meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the body which holds the force to account, to discuss the controversial practice.

The meeting, to be held in Glasgow, comes after it emerged that children under 12 have continued to be stopped and searched on a consensual basis, despite a clear commitment last year to end the practice for children.

The chief constable will be questioned on this issue, and on his decision to review measures to replace consensual searches for everyone.

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Police Scotland announced last week that Sir Stephen had taken the decision “against the backdrop of a record drop in crime, including violent crime across Scotland, the ongoing commitment to using police powers proportionately and the conclusion of a six month stop-and-search pilot in Fife”.

The meeting will look at the evidence that has led to the review at this time, what early consideration has been given to alternatives to replace consensual searches, and what assessment the force has made on the implications of the change.

Non-statutory or consensual searches do not require reasonable suspicion. Officers are not required to inform people that they may refuse the search, and there is no requirement to meet a particular standard of consent.

A pilot scheme was launched in Fife last summer requiring officers to state clearly to people who are the subject of non-statutory searches that they have the right to refuse.

Under the pilot, officers also wrote to parents of children who had been stopped and searched, explaining the reasons why their child was targeted.

Consensual stop-and-search, especially for children, has been widely opposed by politicians.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed the review, but Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie wants to bring forward legislation to outlaw the practice.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Police Federation, which represents 98% of all police officers, has warned against political interference.

Earlier this week, Sir Stephen said: “As I indicated last week, we need to consider a range of measures that could replace the current policing tactic of consensual stop-and-search.

“In doing so we need to be able to balance society’s expectations with powers which ensure that the public can continue to be properly protected.

“The debate we will have needs to be open, non-partisan and recognise the benefits of having a system that is backed by people across Scotland and supported by appropriate policing and, where necessary, by legislation.”

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