Proposals to allow stop and search of children under fire

The prospect of new police powers to stop and search children in Scotland has prompted concerns from leading law figures.

Stop and search is a police tactic that has come under sustained criticism. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Such a move could have “long term negative effects” and alienate a generation of youngsters, according to teh Law Society of Scotland.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson is looking into the wider issue of stop and search, including the prospect of police powers to search children and young people for alcohol.

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Ian Cruickshank, convener of the Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee, said: “Giving the police new powers to stop and search young people for alcohol could alienate them and may have long term negative effects, both for Police Scotland and young people in general.

“There is a risk that a new power to search a child or young person for alcohol would generate a disproportionate negative perception of children, as evidence shows only a small number of searches actually result in the finding of alcohol.”

The Law Society says it believes current police powers are sufficient. Police will only be able to search a person only where they have a specific legal power to do so when a new code of practice comes in later this year, prompting fears it won’t allow children to be searched for alcohol.

The use of police stop and search in Scotland has been controversial in recent years. The Government was forced to end the controversial practice of “non-statutory” or consensual stop and searches of adults and children in 2014 after a report into the issue by John Scott QC.

But the results of consensual, searches for alcohol in the second half of 2015 show that only 9.7 per cent of searches of people under 18 resulted in alcohol being found, the Law Sociaety added.

Mr Cruickshank said there would be “little benefit” in introducing new statutory powers for the police to search children, adults and young people for alcohol.

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 contents of the new Code of Practice have been put out to a full consultation to ensure they are informed by a wide range of views. No decision has been made on the power to search children for alcohol. As recommended by the independent advisory group a full and thorough consultation has been undertaken to inform the way forward.”