Stop and search powers allow the police to combat street crime and anti-social behaviour, and prevent more serious crimes.
What happens if I’m stopped and searched?
If you are stopped you’ll first be asked where you’re going and what you’ve been doing. The police may then decide to search you but only if they have a good reason, for example, that you fit the profile of a criminal seen in the area, or they think you’re acting suspiciously.
Here are some facts about stop and search:
- the search will take place on the street
- if the officer asks you to remove more than your coat and gloves, or anything you wear for religious reasons, they must take you somewhere out of public view
- you’ll be asked to turn out your pockets and show the officers the contents of your bag
- they can also search your vehicle, even if you aren’t present, but they must leave a notice to say what they’ve done
- if you’re carrying something illegal, such as a weapon, or the police believe you’ve committed a crime, you may be arrested
- if they don’t find anything, your details will be recorded for monitoring purposes, and you’ll be allowed to go
What information will I need to provide?
You don’t have to give your name, address or date of birth to the police if you’re stopped and searched unless you’re being reported for an offence.
However, it’s advisable that when asked, you describe your ethnic origin. It’s important that you give this information to the officer, as this is how we monitor disproportionate stopping of ethnic minorities and encourage police accountability.
The officer will fill out a form outlining the reason for stopping you, the outcome of the stop and search and their name, and give you a copy. This information won’t be held on file against you unless you’re charged with an offence.
Can I complain about being stopped and searched?
You should not be stopped or searched just because of your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, the way you dress or because you’ve committed a crime in the past.
If you believe you were stopped and searched unreasonably, or you weren’t treated fairly or with respect, you can complain to:
- your local police station (new window)
- a Citizen’s Advice Bureau (new window)
- the Independent Police Complaints Commission (new window)
- the Commission for Racial Equality (new window)
- a solicitor
Stop and Search Explained
If you're a teacher or a student, you might want to download the booklet designed for schools and community leaders from the Home Office Police website. Stop and Search Explained: How Police Powers Work in the Community explains more about what you can expect if you're ever stopped and searched, and explains your legal rights, and what the process is all about.