SPA responds to Advisory Group's Report on stop and search


SPA responds to Advisory Group report on stop and search

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice has today published the report of the independent advisory group on stop and search policy in Scotland, chaired by prominent solicitor advocate John Scott QC. The group's full report can be accessed from the following link: Stop and search advisory group report

This review, in considering consensual or non‑statutory stop and search, will deal with the position relating to adults and young people aged 12 and over. The practice of stop searching children under 12 on a consensual or non-statutory basis has ceased and is therefore outwith the scope of the advisory group.

SPA response to report of the Advisory Group on Stop and Search

SPA welcomes this considered and comprehensive report and its findings.

SPA led and informed public debate on stop and search, starting with its own review in June 2014. As the Report recognises, the SPA Review was the first formal scrutiny of use of the tactic by policing in Scotland.

The SPA’s recommendations for improvement, supplemented by further detailed work by HMICS and within Police Scotland itself, contributed to an improvement plan on the use of stop and search that has already resulted in significant shifts in approach, not least a huge reduction in the level of non-statutory stop and search activity.

The themes of this report resonate strongly with the various reports which have informed and influenced the recent evolution of stop and search practice. Its recommendation for a statutory code of conduct provides a further opportunity to build on that process of continuous improvement.

SPA believes that the recommendation to bring the use of non-statutory stop and search to an end once such a code of practice is in place should be a further step in building public confidence around the tactic and strengthening the principle of policing by consent.

At our special meeting on stop and search in February, the SPA recommended that ending the practice of consensual stop and search should be progressed only when there was a clear understanding of the associated risks and available mitigating actions, and we welcome the recognition within this report that there should be a measured and careful transition. 

It is clear that this report arrives at a time when the practical use of stop and search is already changing. Preparing frontline officers for the further developments recommended by the Advisory Group will need advance planning and early action, for example in areas such as officer training.

The SPA is writing today to Police Scotland to request that they urgently consider the existing improvement plan against the findings and recommendations of today’s Advisory Group report and provide an update to the SPA at its meeting in October.

That will allow the SPA to publicly demonstrate continued governance and transparency on the overall progress of stop and search practice against a refreshed and updated Police Scotland improvement plan that is reflective of all the various reports that have contributed over the past two years.

We further welcome the recommendation that Scottish Government should hold an early consultation on whether to legislate to create a power for police officers to search under 18’s for possession of alcohol. This also chimes with the SPA’s earlier report which highlighted the need for wider policy consideration within the criminal justice system around the lack of statutory powers to search for alcohol.

The Authority will also continue to lead work in building a stronger and more holistic research picture on the wider societal impacts of stop and search.

To view Police Scotland's response to the report please visit