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Information » Law & Rights » Your Legal Rights and Legal Advice » Stop and Search

  • The police have the general power to stop you in the street, ask you your name, address, where you have been and where you are going. This can often happen late at night. You do not have to answer the police officer but it is in your interest to answer. If you are rude or run away the police officer may get suspicious.
  • If you are stopped you are entitled to know the police officer's name, which station they come from and why they have stopped you. The officer must have reasonable grounds for stopping and/or searching you. This means the police must have seen you doing something suspicious or there must have been something about your behaviour which is suspicious or they must have received a tip off.
  • In order to search you the police must have reasonable grounds to suspect they will find something which has been stolen or which is illegal. This could be drugs or an offensive weapon or something which you might use to commit an offence.
  • If you are 17 or over you can volunteer to let the police search you.
  • If you are 16 or under an 'appropriate' adult e.g. your parent or guardian can volunteer to let you be searched.
    In some special situations e.g. a football match you can be searched without a reason.
  • You can be searched while you are in a public place, including shopping centres and cinemas.
  • Police can search anything you are carrying or a vehicle that you are in or which is yours.
  • If the police want to remove more than your outer clothing e.g. a coat or jacket, then this must be done out of the public view and by an officer of the same sex.
  • The police can search your house if they have reason to believe that they might find someone who has committed an arrestable offence or to look for evidence in connection with this; or they have a warrant or permission from a court; or to catch an escaped prisoner or save life or prevent serious property damage or to prevent some kind of disturbance.
  • A written record must be kept if you are searched and it should include details such as, the reason for the search, what was being looked for, time, date and location of the search as well as the name of the officer that conducted the search, the results of the search and any damage to your property. You can ask for a copy of the report up to one year after it has been written.

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