UN Criticise Stop-And-Search Use

24 July 2015, 18:35 | Updated: 24 July 2015, 18:59

Police Scotland's controversial use of consensual stop-and-search has been criticised in a report by the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

The committee, made up of 18 independent international experts, said it is concerned about the "large-scale'' use of the powers and called for their repeal.

Earlier this month the force was referred to the UN by the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC).

A report setting out the UN findings said: "The committee is concerned about the use of stop-and-search powers in Scotland, particularly non-statutory searches undertaken on a large scale by Police Scotland that appear to involve, inter alia, the selective application of such measures in a manner which is allegedly unlawful and disproportionate.

"Furthermore... the committee observes that no data on the community background of persons stopped and searched under this Act appear to have been gathered so as to ensure that such powers are not used disproportionately and arbitrarily against individuals of a particular ethnicity.''

The committee concluded that non-statutory stop-and-search powers should be repealed in Scotland and highlighted the need for officer training and improved data gathering.

SHRC chair Professor Alan Miller said: "The commission is extremely pleased that the UN Human Rights Committee has taken on board our evidence on these and other issues. Its robust recommendations should now be addressed by the Scottish and UK governments.''

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: "It is a bittersweet victory that the internationally respected UN Human Rights Committee supports our position that so-called consensual stop-and-search should be scrapped.

"I hope that the SNP will soon publicly back my moves to amend the Criminal Justice Bill so that we can guarantee more people the justice system they deserve.''

Independent MSP John Finnie, Scottish Green MSP candidate for next year's Holyrood election, said: "The Scottish Green Party welcomed the Government's stop-and-search review being undertaken by John Scott QC, the respected human rights lawyer.

"Whilst in not wishing to pre-empt the outcome of that review, we believe that the only acceptable way forward is to ensure all stop-and-search would require to be on done a statutory footing.''

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.

"We remain committed to driving forward with our ongoing improvements which will consider and act upon all recommendations from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Scottish Government independent advisory group on stop-and-search which is also considering the future of consensual searching.''

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Stop-and-search can be a valuable tool in combating crime and has led to the seizures of dangerous weapons, drugs and stolen goods. However, clearly it is important to get the balance right between protecting the public and the rights of the individual.''

The advisory group is due to make its recommendations by August.