New Stop And Search Code Published

21 March 2016, 17:26 | Updated: 21 March 2016, 17:27

The Scottish Government has published a consultation on a new code of practice for police powers of stop-and-search.

It comes after concerns over the numbers of people being searched without a legal basis.

Once the code comes into force, non-statutory or "consensual'' stop-and-searches will be phased out.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes has warned it must not allow such searches to return "by the backdoor''.

The code sets out guidance on how and when stop-and-search is used, how the search should be carried out and the type of information that should be recorded.

It says "reasonable grounds for suspicion'' must be met before a search can be carried out.

The usual requirement is a suspicion the person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime.

The code also states some search powers are exercised to ensure the care and protection of the person being searched and/or to ensure the safety of others.

The exercise of these powers does not depend on the person concerned being suspected of a crime.

Ministers are also consulting on powers to allow police to search people under 18 for alcohol.

The issue was identified as a "legislative gap'' by an advisory group set up by the Scottish Government to examine stop-and-search practices.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: "The fact that stop-and-search has led to the seizures of dangerous weapons, drugs and stolen goods shows how it can be a valuable tool in combating crime.

"However, it is important that police get the balance right between protecting the public and the rights of the individuals.

"We have already seen significant moves by Police Scotland towards phasing out the practice of non-statutory, or so-called 'consensual' stop and search in preparation for it ending completely once the new code of practice comes in.

"These consultations are about giving people the chance to share their views on how and when stop-and-search should be used.

"We are particularly keen to hear from young people who have experience of being stopped by the police. Their views will help us to consider the best possible way to tackle the issue of children and young people drinking in public and the harm that it can cause.''

"By listening to the public, Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority can ensure that stop and search achieves what we all want to see - safer communities.''

Ms McInnes said: "We can't allow intrusive so-called consensual searches, which the Scottish Liberal Democrats succeeded in abolishing, to return by the backdoor.

"SNP ministers are considering introducing a new category of police search for activities that aren't illegal.

"That is a very dangerous precedent to set. There is little evidence this new power is necessary and it risks allowing the police to once again discriminate against and target young people.''

The consultations will run until July 15.