Local MP Jo Swinson is backing Scottish Liberal Democrat plans to bring forward legislation to abolish consensual stop and search. Shocking figures last week showed that 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.
Previous assurances given by Police Scotland that children under 12 would not be subject to consensual stop and search were proven wrong after a report found hundreds of children were still being subject to the tactic. This comes despite an official memo being circulated round to officers ordering its use to stop.
The amendments would:
· Put all stop and searches on a statutory footing
· Seek to put in place a statutory Code of Practice. This would be similar to steps already taken in England and Wales, where the exercise of stop and search is set out clearly.
· Rebalance police powers so that police can protect the public whilst ensuring robust safeguards to protect civil liberties.
· Maintain existing extensive police powers to undertake evidence-led stop and search for drugs, guns and knives, based on officers having reasonable suspicion.
Commenting Jo said:
“After being told the controversial tactic would end with immediate effect we now know that hundreds of children were still subject to stop-searches.
“Given that 91% of the stop-searches on children came up negative, what possible rationale could there be for continuing a practice that Mr. Mawson himself called ‘indefensible’ when in front of the justice committee in Holyrood.
“London's Metropolitan Police force who police a larger population than Scotland, searched 19 children under nine in the last year, compared to 159 by Police Scotland.
“SNP Justice Secretary Michael Matheson needs to do more than his predecessor and not sit idly by while the massively disproportionate use of stop and search powers is inflicted on children, some as young as 1.
"Sadly it seems the only way to guarantee for good that stop and search will be accountable and regulated is for Parliament to legislate. Scottish Liberal Democrat amendments will put a stop to discredited consensual stop and search.
- The interactive calculator of stop-searches in 2014 can be found here http://marcellison.com/bbc/ss2014/sscalc.html
- The amendments will be laid before the Scottish Parliament after the February recess.