What is Stop and Search?

Stop and Search is a police activity when a officer stops a member of the public or a vehicle and carries out a search. This helps the police officer to decide if the person or vehicle is linked to a crime or police incident. It can also help officers to rule out an individual or vehicle of being involved in a crime or incident.

This activity must be done in a fair and effective manner, with officers acting on information which gives them the reason to conduct the search. Officers will carry out the search politely and professionally and make sure the person being searched is treated with dignity while the search is carried out.

Being searched by a police officer does not mean you have been arrested.

Stop and Search powers

An officer will conduct a search if there is 'reasonable grounds' to suspect that someone may have; stolen property, weapons, including knives or guns, illegal drugs, or something that can be used to commit a crime, eg a crowbar. Officers use 'police powers' to enable them to carry out stop and search and they will keep a record of who they have searched and why.

Where can searches be conducted?

Many searches can be conducted anywhere, but the most widely used power is the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 this can only be conducted in a public place, therefore officers cannot search you in your home and your garden, or in the home or garden of someone who has given you permission to be there under this power.

Reasonable Grounds

Reasonable grounds for suspicion rely on information or intelligence about someone or their behaviour. For example they may have been seen breaking into a car, that would give an officer 'reasonable grounds' to search them. It can never be supported on the basis of personal facts alone, such as:
  • Race
  • Age
  • Appearance
  • Religion
Female police officer

The Police Officer Must Provide:

Before you are searched the police officer must tell you:

Their name and police station (they will show their warrant card if in plain clothes)

What they expect to find, eg stolen property

The reason they want to search you, eg it looks like you’re hiding something

Why they are legally allowed to search you

That you can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how you can get a copy

Removing Clothing: Police Powers

A police officer can ask you to take off your coat, jacket or gloves. The police might ask you to take off other clothes and anything you’re wearing for religious reasons - eg a veil or turban. If they do, they must take you somewhere out of public view. If the officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves they must be the same sex as you.

Conduct of the Search

Stop and search must be carried out according to strict rules – the police have a responsibility to ensure that people’s rights are protected. Stop and search laws are designed to keep everybody safe, they are not intended to harass or intimidate and can help the police detect crime and make our communities safer. Click on this link to see the Northumbria Police policy on Stop and Stop and Search.

Your feedback is important and you have a right to complain

If you have been stopped and searched and are unhappy with how you were treated, you can complain. You can also complain if you feel you were treated differently because of your race, age, sexuality, gender, disability, religion or faith.

It will help if you keep the form that the police gave you.

Northumbria Police receive very low numbers of complaints linked to Stop & Search, but does recognise that if used inappropriately, Stop & Search can lead to tensions in communities. Every complaint therefore will be treated as a “community trigger”, and will be reviewed by the Independent Police Complaints Scrutiny Panel.

Stop & Search Statistics

Stop and search data can be found on the Police.uk website. Click on this link to be directed to the Police.uk website where you can find the latest stop and search statistics.