Stop and Search Referred To UN

3 July 2015, 19:07

Police Scotland has been referred to the United Nations over controversial stop-and-search practices.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) said it has noted its concerns in a report to the UN Human Rights Committee.

The body underlined the need for stop and search to take place within the legal framework set out by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

SHRC chairman Professor Alan Miller said: "Stop and search has its place as a means of ensuring public safety.

"However, it should only be carried out where there is a clear legal basis for interfering with someone's basic right to privacy.

"We should all be free to go about our daily business unless the police have reasonable suspicion that we are doing something illegal.

"Police Scotland has repeatedly failed to take appropriate steps to address the concerns that the commission and others have raised.

"A review announced in February promised progress but, in reality, has not led to any tangible change. Unlawful stop and search continues to take place on Scotland's streets. This must stop.''

People in Scotland are four times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than elsewhere in Britain, according to research published last month.

Edinburgh University's Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research found that seven out of the 10 UK police divisions most likely to use stop and search were in Scotland.

This is despite a 38% drop in the practice since the merger of forces to form Police Scotland in 2013.

The SHRC has previously called for an end to "non-statutory'' stop and search and initially raised the issue with the UN Human Rights Committee in July last year.

The body said it looked forward to a forthcoming report by the Stop and Search Advisory Group established by the Scottish Government and would respond accordingly.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: "The Human Rights Commission has closely advised the national force during its attempts to reform this controversial tactic.

"It is therefore all the more damning that this independent public body has concluded that there has not been 'any tangible change' and chosen to refer the matter to the United Nations for a second time.

"I am pleased that the commission is among the ever-growing number of independent experts to endorse the abolition of so-called consensual stop and search. I hope to achieve this in September through my amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill.

"The SNP Government must now recognise that any reform of stop and search which doesn't involve Parliament abolishing these unlawful, intrusive and unjustified searches simply isn't tenable.''

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said: "Police Scotland recognises it is important to strike a balance between protecting the public and the rights of the individual, and we are committed to complying with requirements of the Human Rights Act and our Code of Ethics and Police Values, where stop and search must be carried out with integrity, fairness and respect.

"The lawfulness of stop and search continues to be tested in the Scottish courts.

"Following an extensive review of stop and search by Police Scotland and independent reviews by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR), some areas for improvement have been identified.

"As part of our Stop and Search Improvement Plan, Police Scotland has made significant steps toward delivering these improvements with the publication of new operational guidance and a new enhanced national database.

"We remain committed to driving ongoing improvements around stop and search through continuing to work with others.

"In addition, we will ensure that any recommendations from the independent Stop and Search Advisory Group are considered and acted upon when reported in the future.''