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Stop and search

The police have powers to stop and search people. Here we explain more about stop and search, and your rights under the law.

What is stop and search?

An officer can stop and search you if they have a genuine suspicion in their mind that items that could be used to commit crime, or are evidence of an offence (such as stolen property or weapons), will be found on you. Their suspicion must seem reasonable to an independent observer.

Being stopped and searched doesn’t mean you’re under arrest or have necessarily done anything wrong. It doesn’t mean you will have a criminal record.

The police must be able to explain what information or behaviour has caused them to be suspicious and stop and search you.

A fair and effective stop and search

  • The search is justified, lawful and stands up to public scrutiny
  • The officer has genuine and objectively reasonable suspicion they will find a prohibited article or item for use in crime
  • You understand why you have been searched and feel you have been treated with respect
  • The search was necessary and was the most proportionate method the police officer could use to establish whether you have such an item

Your rights

If you are stopped and searched, you should be told:

  • Why you are being stopped and/or searched
  • The officer’s name and the station they are based at
  • What power they have used to stop you
  • You should be treated in a professional manner, with dignity and respect.

If an officer needs to remove more than your jacket, outer coat or gloves, footwear or headgear, you will be taken somewhere out of public view. This could include a police vehicle or police station and, if the search involves the removal of more than footwear or headgear it will be done in the presence of an officer who is the same sex as you.

You don’t have to give the officer your personal details even if they ask for them. You will be offered a record of the search.

The law

An officer needs reasonable grounds to stop and search you. They should genuinely suspect you have an item in your possession. The grounds for the search and the object of the search must be explained to you fully.

You should not be stopped because of your age, race, ethnicity, nationality, faith, gender, sexual orientation, disability, the language you speak or because you have committed offences before.

More information about stop and search

The Government publishes information about about your stop and search rights.

You can find out more information on the definition of a fair and effective stop and search encounter from the College of Policing.