THE increased use of stop-and-search by police officers across Scotland is not linked to a reduction in violent crime, a review of the controversial tactic has found.
A report published by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) found some areas of the country had seen a several-hundred per cent rise in the number of searches in the first nine months since Scotland’s single police force was created last year.
But the SPA said it could find “no causal link” between a reduction in violence and the volume of stop-and-search activity.
While there was a 0.2 per cent fall in the number of searches as a whole from April to December last year, the national figure was driven by a 45,598 reduction in searches carried out in Glasgow.
Elsewhere, there was a significant rise in Clackmannanshire (151 per cent), Edinburgh (46 per cent), Fife (414 per cent), Stirling (131 per cent), Aberdeen City (42 per cent), Aberdeenshire (54 per cent), Angus (326 per cent), Dundee (102 per cent) and Perth and Kinross (236 per cent).
The force said a total of 640,699 searches was carried out in the 12 months to the end of March – the equivalent of almost 1,800 a day.
The figure is three times higher than the 222,315 conducted by London’s Metropolitan force, which polices a population greater than that of Scotland.
The SPA’s study concluded that intelligence-led stop-and-search could contribute to reducing violence and antisocial behaviour, but it said the size of the contribution was unknown.
Launching the review at an SPA briefing in Glasgow, authority member Brian Barbour said: “Our primary conclusion is that stop-and-search as a tactic does contribute to a reduction in violence and antisocial behaviour – but the extent of that contribution is unknown.
“We could find no causal link between the reduction in violence and the volume of stop-and-search activity.”
He added: “There are questions: around proportionality and consistency of approach in the age profile of those searched, particularly those under 24, over 80 and indeed under-tens, where it is questionable why children under ten would be searched on a non-statutory basis.”
The study said those aged 15 to 19 were the most likely to be stopped, but it found hundreds of pensioners, and children under the age of nine were searched during the nine-month period. The SPA made a series of recommendations for the police, including better informing the public of their right to decline.
The SPA said around two-thirds of searches were non-statutory, meaning officers did not need reasonable suspicion and the individual did not need to be informed of their right to refuse. The use of non-statutory stop-and-search is not permitted anywhere else in the UK.
Lib Dem justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes, an outspoken critic of non-statutory stop-and-search, said: “The report shows just what a shambles stop-and-search has been.
“The justice secretary [Kenny MacAskill] has consistently said that he does not recognise the concerns which I have raised about Police Scotland’s use of non-statutory stop and search. Today’s report should make him think differently.”
The review found that one in every 100 searches recovered a weapon, while stolen property was found in two out of 100.
The majority of the searches and detections are for alcohol, despite there being no statutory powers for these.
Police Scotland said a national stop and search unit had been set up to ensure consistency.