New stop and search statistics scrutinised

Police Scotland Glenrothes Exercise the Power of Stop and Search on Friday 23 may 14
Police Scotland Glenrothes Exercise the Power of Stop and Search on Friday 23 may 14

New statistics compiled by BBC Scotland show that in over 80 per cent of stop and search procedures in the Borders, police discover no evidence of criminal activity.

Police have the powers to stop individuals if they suspect criminal activity in what is termed a statutory stop and search, but they are also allowed to stop individuals even when there is no suspicion they are doing anything wrong.

These are called consensual stop and searches and can technically be refused by the individual, although there is widespread concern that this right is rarely explained by the police.

The new figures show that 412 such searches took place in the Borders during August and September this year.

During that two month period, police in the Borders conducted 177 consensual searches, compared to 235 statutory searches.

Only 15 per cent of the consensual searches uncovered alcohol, drugs, weapons or stolen property.

And only 20 per cent of statutory searches uncovered any illegal items.

Berwickshire’s Conservative MSP, John Lamont commented: “These figures are yet further evidence that a ‘Strathclyde’ approach to policing is being adopted in the Scottish Borders under Police Scotland.”

He explained further: “The type of policing that may have worked in Glasgow is not appropriate in a rural area like the Borders.

“People will quite rightly be worried that hundreds of stop and searches are taking place each month and that the vast majority of them do not uncover any illegal activity whatsoever.

“Stop and search is a useful tool for the police to use, but it must be used sensibly.

“With so many failing to uncover any illegal activity, there is a huge risk that communities will be alienated and their relationship with police officers damaged.

“And these searches take up valuable police time, meaning officers are taken off our streets to fill in the necessary paperwork.”

Policing in this manner had previously come under scrutiny when it emerged that during 2013 there were 61.6 per cent more searches carried out in the Borders than in the previous year.

The majority of the searches carried out in August and September were of men, and the reason given by police for carrying out a search was most often suspicion of them in possession of drugs, alcohol or weapons.

In August, eight per cent of searches were made on the suspicion of somebody holding stolen property, the other major reason given.

There were also three searches made in which police believed that wildlife protection laws may have been infringed, one where the given reason was “fireworks”, and another two justified under the 1994 Public Order Act.