20 October 2014

StopWatch response to Home Office Consultation on Draft PACE Code A concerning Stop and Search

Taher Gulamhussein's avatar

On 26th August 2014, the Home Secretary announced that all 43 police forces in England and Wales had signed up to the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme and also announced a consultation on proposed changes to PACE Code A, which concerns police powers to stop and search suspects among other matters. StopWatch responds to the Consultation on the Draft Code of Practice today.

Stopwatch welcomes the revision of PACE Code A and the opportunity to comment on the draft revised Code. In general, we think that the revised draft helps to clarify what constitutes reasonable grounds for suspicion, helpfully introduces guidance on when a person is obliged to provide their name and address and makes clear that abuse of power will be subject to performance or disciplinary hearings. We are supportive of the Home Secretary’s goals to ensure that police officers may carry out a search only when they have reasonable and well-founded suspicions and to reduce the number of innocent people unnecessarily stopped and searched. In our response, we provide detailed comments and recommendations that we believe are necessary to improve the prospects that these revisions will have the desired effect.

In summary, we comment and recommend that:

  • the Code of Practice is drafted in a more inclusive and accessible
  • Safeguards for young and vulnerable persons are explicitly incorporated
  • People are not targeted on the basis of broad generalisations and stereotypes
  • That paragraphs sanctioning the use of force reflect existing law and guidance
  • Clear explanations are required as to what is being looked for during a search, and the officer's grounds for suspecting an individual of carrying the articles
  • The rights of Independent Observers are covered
  • The rules on the extent to which a search can occur in different situations are drafted in a more accessible way
  • Strip searches are recorded and the guidance on when they are permitted is more clear
  • The provisions of Code A extend to stop and search under Schedule 7 Terrorism act 2000
  • More guidance on Stop and Account is contained within Code A including a requirement that leaving a stop and account does not constitute reasonable grounds for suspicion
  • Searches of the age of children and young people is recorded
  • Intelligence should be clearly defined