UN report critical of Police Scotland stop and search

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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POLICE Scotland’s controversial use of stop and search has been criticised by the United Nations in a report calling for the non-statutory use of tactic to be abandoned.

Police Scotland is currently considering the future of consensual stop and search following controversy over its use on young children.

This ‘disproportionate use’ as the report puts it largely ignored the well understood police powers and rather relied on the highly dubious tactic of so-called ‘consensual’ searches

John Finnie

The UN committee said it was concerned about the use of consensual stop-search in a manner which is “allegedly unlawful and disproportionate”.

The report states: “The committee is concerned about the use of stop and search powers in Scotland, particularly non-statutory searches undertaken on a large scale by Police Scotland, that appear to involve, inter alia, the selective application of such measures in a manner which is allegedly unlawful and disproportionate.”

The report calls for the repeal of non-statutory stop and search powers and increased efforts to improve the process of selecting targets for statutory searches.

Independent MSP John Finnie said: “Prior to the advent of the single police service, the common law and statutory powers of stop and search generally worked well across Scotland. The understandable public outcry about stop and search, reflected in the comments in this measured UN Human Rights Committee report, was the result of Police Scotland’s decision to use this sensitive tactic on an unprecedented industrial scale.

“This ‘disproportionate use’ as the report puts it largely ignored the well understood police powers and rather relied on the highly dubious tactic of so-called ‘consensual’ searches. Many of those subjected to these ‘consensual’ searches were minors who were clearly unable to give the necessary informed consent.”

Mr Finnie said he hoped a review currently being led by human rights lawyer John Scott on behalf of the Scottish Government would recommend that all stop and search be done on a “statutory footing”.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Stop and search can be a valuable tool in combating crime and has led to the seizures of dangerous weapons, drugs and stolen goods. However, clearly it is important to get the balance right between protecting the public and the rights of the individual.

“The new independent advisory group, chaired by John Scott QC, is considering the longer-term policy around the use of consensual stop and search and will make their recommendations by August 2015.”

Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson added: “Following an extensive review of stop and search by Police Scotland and independent reviews by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR), some areas for improvement have been identified. As part of our Stop and Search Improvement Plan, Police Scotland has made significant steps toward delivering these improvements around stop and search through continuing to work with others.

“We remain committed to driving forward with our ongoing improvements which will consider and act upon all recommendations from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Scottish Government independent Advisory Group on Stop and Search which is also considering the future of consensual searching.”