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25 January 2016, 15:17
Young people continue to be the focus of police searches despite turning up the fewest illicit items, according to Police Scotland's public scrutiny body.
There has been a substantial decline in stop and search activity since government advisers raised concerns about its widespread use as a "default tactic'', a Scottish Police Authority (SPA) update found.
The Advisory Group on Stop and Search, chaired by John Scott QC, also recommended ``consensual or non-statutory stop and search of the person in Scotland should end'' once a new Code Of Practice is drawn up.
The Scottish Government has yet to produce a timetable for the new Code of Practice and consensual searches are still being conducted.
The advisers warned that stop and search ``has been used disproportionately, particularly on children and young people''.
The SPA found that there continues to be a significant number of both statutory and consensual searches on under-17s.
Teenagers are targeted the most despite being the least likely to be found with anything - while people in their late 20s are targeted the least despite being the most likely to be carrying something.
The number of total searches between June and August 2015 was approximately 97,500 less than the total recorded within the same period during 2014 - a reduction of more than 81%.
Children aged 12-15 saw the lowest proportion of total searches (8.5%) and positive searches (12.6%) overall.
Outside this demographic, people aged 16-19 saw the most searches (22.1%) but the fewest positive searches (18.8%).
People aged 25-29 saw the fewest searches (12.8%) but the most positive searches (28.1%).
There is a similar pattern with statutory searches - those conducted without consent under suspicion of carrying items such as weapons, drugs, stolen goods or alcohol.
More than 20% of statutory searches were on 16-to-19-year-olds, with items found in nearly a quarter (23.9%) of searches. However, just 13.6% of statutory searches were on 25-to-29-year-olds, with items found in a third (33.3%) of cases.
No consensual searches of children under the age of 12 were recorded but officers conducted three searches on children below the age of 12 using legislative powers in relation to the misuse of drugs, stolen property, and bladed weapons respectively.
The report does not say whether these searches were positive.
Last week, the SPA heard that some police officers still perceive that they are under pressure to meet stop and search volume targets.
The force insists officers have never been given such a target but it found some ``are confusing directed and targeted patrols with general pressure to conduct searches''.
The latest update was published on the SPA website to comply with the Advisory Group's complaint about ``problems regarding the release and availability of data''.
It stated: ``Although not directly comparable with previous years, it is clear that the ratio of consensual searches to statutory (or legislative) searches has reversed from past years, with the proportion of searches which are consensual now substantially lower than those which are statutory.
``Detection rates were significantly higher for statutory searches.''
It added: ``There is a significant variation in rates of stop and search per head of population between the North, East, and West Command areas and even between neighbouring local authorities within command areas.
``Search rates within each Command do, however, tend to be higher in local authority areas where rates of violent crime are also relatively higher.
``The majority of searches continue to occur in the West Command area, although the proportional value (compared to the East and North) fell slightly between June and August 2015.
"Most seizures take place in the West Command, and pertain to alcohol.
"The majority of recorded alcohol removals resulted from seizure rather than stop and search.
"Young people continue to be a focus of search activity. The number of stop and searches recorded between June and August peaks across 16-to-18-year-olds.
"The most prevalent ages for searches skew even younger, peaking for 15-to-17-year-olds.
"The detection rates for younger people are considerably lower than for adults, specifically those between 20 and 40.''
The high number of consensual searches on the young ``may suggest the 17 and under group are less likely to refuse a search'', it stated.