Scottish police stop and search numbers double

Police use of stop and search has more than doubled in recent years and Scots may now be six times more likely to be stopped than people south of the Border, a new report suggests.

Scots six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. Picture: Getty
Scots six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. Picture: Getty
Scots six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. Picture: Getty

The rise has been driven by alcohol seizures while “relatively few knives” and a “very small proportion” of firearms were detected, according to Edinburgh University researcher Kath Murray.

Ms Murray has released a new study of searches by Scotland’s previous eight forces between 2005 and 2010, which also features an analysis of Police Scotland figures released this week.

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There were 64 searches per 1,000 people between 2005 and 2010, almost four times more than the 17 per 1,000 south of the Border in the same period, the report found.

This rose to 131 per 1,000 by the first two weeks of 2014.

The average for England and Wales was 22 arrests per 1,000 in 2011-12, according to the most recent Home Office figures.

This suggests Scots are six times more likely to be searched than south of the border, but Ms Murray believes the current disparity may now be even higher.

“Anecdotally, I suspect there will be an even larger discrepancy now, because the Met has had a policy of reigning in and reducing stop and search,” she said.

“The report itself is based on a very robust body of evidence from 2005 to 2010. Beyond 2010, I have been reliant on data as and when Police Scotland put data out, which isn’t routine and it’s very selective.

“Back in 2010, there were 86 searches per 1,000 and now it is around 131 per 1,000.”

More than 90 per cent of all searches in 2013 related to drugs, alcohol and weapons, the latest Police Scotland figures released this week show.

Some 37 per cent of all searches to detect firearms were positive, with 166 firearms or associated items recovered, while 4,273 weapons, including knives, were seized.

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The highest results were in relation to alcohol, with 37 per cent positive searches and 61,541 recoveries.

Ms Murray said: “The latest data, which is a little selective as we don’t have the full figures, has been underpinned by an increase in alcohol detections, which is a fairly straightforward search.

“We know that 37 per cent of alcohol searches were positive, an increase from around 25 per cent in 2010. So, it’s largely been driven by alcohol.

“Firearms account for a very, very small proportion of searches usually in the proportion of 1 per cent.

“Full figures aren’t there for knives. It doesn’t tell you how many searches there were, only the amount of detections, so we can’t work out what the detection rate is. It’s usually about 1 to 2 per cent.

“There’s a lot of alcohol being taken off the streets, but compared to the number of searches, relatively few knives.”

The Edinburgh University report states: “Based on year- to-date figures, it can be estimated that the national stop-and-search rate may be in the region of 131 searches per 1,000 people in 2013-14, compared to 86 searches per 1,000 people in 2010.

The report suggests that the effectiveness of stop and search is “unclear”. Detection rates ranged from less than 2 per cent for offensive weapons to more than 30 per cent for stolen property.

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People aged between 15 and 20 years were nearly three times more likely to be searched than those in their early 20s. Around 500 children aged ten and under were searched.

Police Scotland assistant chief constable Wayne Mawson said: “Local communities repeatedly tell us that reducing violent crime and having a visible policing presence on our streets is a priority for them.

“The use of stop and search, where it is targeted and intelligence-led and used in the right place at the right time, is an effective and legal tactic that helps us support those priorities.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Proportionate stop and search is one tactic amongst many police use to cut crime.”