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New stop and search powers would have little benefit, Law Society says

18 July 2016 | tagged News release

The Law Society of Scotland has questioned the benefit of giving police new powers to stop and search children and young people today, Monday 18 July.

In its responses to Scottish Government consultations on stop and search, including a consultation on police powers to search children and young people for alcohol and a consultation on a draft code of practice, the Law Society said it believes current police powers are sufficient and new powers could result in negative effects.

Ian Cruickshank, convener of the Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee, said: “Giving the police new powers to stop and search young people for alcohol could alienate them and may have long term negative effects, both for Police Scotland and young people in general.

“There is a risk that a new power to search a child or young person for alcohol would generate a disproportionate negative perception of children, as evidence shows only a small number of searches actually result in the finding of alcohol.”

The consultation document states that the results of non-statutory, or consensual, searches for alcohol during the period 1 June to 31 December 2015 show that only 9.7% of searches of people under 18 resulted in alcohol being found.

The Law Society also considered whether there should be a specific legal power to search people aged 18 and over.

Ian Cruickshank added: “This is a complex issue, partly because alcohol is not a prohibited substance and therefore mere possession is not enough. If a new statutory power was available to the police allowing them to stop and search any adult with alcohol, on the basis that the adult intends to supply to children, we envisage that difficulties would arise in the wording of the legislation. For example, if a person is walking out of a supermarket with a bag of alcohol, on what basis would the police be entitled to stop and search them regarding the supply of alcohol to children under the age of 18? If the Statute were to use the phrase ‘reasonable cause’, what would that mean, or how would reasonable cause be established?

“Taking all matters into account; our view is that there would be little benefit in introducing new statutory powers for the police to search children, adults and young people for alcohol.”

The Law Society’s full responses to both Stop and Search consultations can be found on the website: https://www.lawscot.org.uk/for-the-public/law-reform-consultations-and-bills/consultations-2016/criminal-law/

The Scottish Government consultation on police powers to search children and young people for alcohol can be found at https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/organised-crime-and-police-powers-unit/under18search

The Scottish Government consultation on a draft code of practice for stop and search can be found at https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/organised-crime-and-police-powers-unit/stop-and-search

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