22nd June 2015

Police stop and search figures are dropping in Scotland but the practice remains far more common than it is south of the border, research by the SCCJR shows.

Numbers have fallen by 38 per cent since the formation of Police Scotland in April 2013, the research by Dr Kath Murray of Edinburgh University found, but the latest figures show that people in Scotland are still four times more likely to be stopped and searched than those in England and Wales.

The study shows that out of the ten UK police divisions most likely to use stop and search, seven were in Scotland. Divisions located in the area formerly controlled by Strathclyde Police occupied the top five places.

In 2014/15, the number of recorded searches on 16-year-olds in Glasgow was greater than the number of 16-year-olds in the city as a whole.

The report provides a broad overview of Police Scotland’s stop and search trends in the two years since its formation, and takes into account data quality concerns. In the first year of Police Scotland’s existence, the number of searches fell from just under 683,000 in the previous year to just over 640,000. In the second year, the figure dropped to just under 427,000 – a decrease of almost 40 per cent over two years.

Despite the overall fall in searches during the first year, recorded search rates increased in 10 divisions. In the second year, search rates fell in all divisions, albeit inconsistently.

During Police Scotland’s first two years, the number of recorded non-statutory searches – where individuals can be stopped without reasonable suspicion – fell by around 43 per cent.

Researchers suggest that Scotland’s high stop and search figures may be linked to a combination of performance management, weak regulation and a lack of accountability and scrutiny prior to 2013.

The report also suggests that the recent fall in stop and search is a likely result of media and political scrutiny following the Police Scotland merger.

Dr Murray said: “The overall trends in the report are encouraging, and it is clear that Police Scotland is putting a huge amount of work into this area. The findings also show the scale of the challenge in relation to stop and search, and highlight ongoing regional inconsistencies in how these powers are used.”

“One of the key tasks for Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Government is to put in place robust governance processes, and to ensure that stop and search, as well as other police powers, are deployed fairly and effectively.”

To download the report, click here.

Criminal Justice Process and Institutions