Local MP Jo Swinson has submitted responses to Police Scotland’s review of the use of stop and search. Jo criticises the disproportionate use of the tactic, particularly its use on children and teenagers, and recommends that Police Scotland be accountable to Parliament.
Her response comes following the release of shocking figures in February this year that show Police Scotland carried out stop-searches on 654 children aged under 12 between January and November 2014. In the East Dunbartonshire Council area 14 children under 12 were subject to stop and search including a 1-year old infant.
Commenting, Jo said:
“Figures released in February show a massively disproportionate use of stop and search powers given that 91% of the stop-searches on children came up negative. Police Scotland need to be held accountable and regulated for Parliament.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that stop and search can be an effective tool in tackling crime and making our streets safer but searches must have a robust legal basis, be properly regulated and Police Scotland needs to act in transparent manner.”
The text of Jo Swinson’s responses appear below:
Greater Glasgow Division
Whilst I do not deny that stop and search has a role in addressing crime and may be necessary, I would question how effective the current tactics are. I do feel that using it disproportionately – particularly against certain groups – does more damage than good, and I am not convinced that it is effective enough to justify the current scale of use. I have serious concerns about the use of the tactic when dealing with children and young teenagers, and I would question whether notions of consent have any relevance on these occasions. I feel that it is a tool to be used only when necessary, or less we risk damaging relations between the Police and communities, and also the possible harassment of certain individuals.
I generally feel that everyone should be free to go about their business without being subject to Police search unless there as a reasonable level of suspicion of crime. I would like to see the abolition of so called consensual stop and search, and ensure all stop and searches have a robust statutory footing.
I also believe that the Scottish Parliament should be in a position to scrutinise its use, by requiring Police Scotland to be fully accountable to Parliament and requiring Ministers to set out a code of practice setting out when its use is appropriate.
Police should also have a legal duty to consider a child’s best interest if a search is necessary.
I do not consider that a reduction in the use of stop and search would result in any increase in crime, as I have seen very little evidence that it acts as an effective preventative measure currently.
I think my views are covered above. I hope that this is helpful.
Jo Swinson MP