Concern at city total for police stop and searches

THE number of stop and searches carried out in Glasgow is "disproportionate", a watchdog found.

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The stop and search figures were described as "disproportionate"
The stop and search figures were described as "disproportionate"

In a major review, the Scottish Police Authority - the watchdog for the new national force - suggests the practice is out of step with the level of crime in the city.

This view came despite a 20% drop in the number of stop and searches recorded in Glasgow in 2013-14 to a still huge 180,000 - more, per capita and per offence, than anywhere else in Scotland.

Watchdogs stressed that crime was falling in Glasgow but that it was also going down in Aberdeen, where stop and searches are rarely used.

They also warned that some officers feel under pressure to carry out stop and searches, which are down nationwide only due to the Glasgow drop.

Wayne Mawson, assistant chief constable of Police Scotland, said he did not think the Glasgow decline was linked with Scotland-wide concerns about the tactic, especially in respect of supposedly consensual searches of children and young people.

Asked about the fall from 2012-13 to 2013-14, he said: "You can't look back and say there were too many. What we did at the time was we looked at where the crime profile was, where the disorder was, where the violence was and we tasked our officers in to those areas.

"It is a measure of success to some extent when people are no longer carrying knives and disorder calls are down."

The SPA report said: "There has been a subst-antial fall in the number of stop and searches carried out in Glasgow, offset nationally by considerable increases in volumes in command areas in the north and east of Scotland.

"The extent to which stop and search contrib-utes to falling violence is not clear, with areas such as Grampian and Strath-clyde experiencing comparable falls in violent crime with very different rates of stop and search activity."

The SPA issued rec-ommendations on the tactic, especially the use of so-called consensual, non-statutory searches, especially for alcohol.

It said: "Young people aged 15-19 years are most likely to be stopped, with 223 children aged nine or under also recorded as having been stopped and searched.

"Although there is no statutory search power for alcohol, the majority of searches are for alcohol and the majority of detections are for alcohol (12 times the recovery rate for weapons).

"While most officers were clear of the need to target activity on the right person, in the right place at the right time, some officers perceived pressure to conduct a certain number of searches."

BRIAN Barbour, the SPA member who chaired the scrutiny task group, said: "People need to be better informed of their rights, including the right to decline non-statutory search.

"And we need more research to better under-stand the longer-term impacts of stop and search on particular groups, especially younger people."

He added that the review "highlights that there is a need for wider policy consideration within the criminal justice system around the lack of statutory powers to search for alcohol".

Police Scotland have until September to resp-ond to the recommenda-tions, which aren't binding. It has already moved to create a national unit to co-ordinate the tactic and plans a retraining pilot.


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