Commissioner: Stop and search research highlights need for human rights-based approach

20 January 2020

Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson has stressed the importance of a human rights-based approach to policing after a new report suggested high volumes of stop and search may have damaged perception of Police among Scotland’s young people.

The research , which was carried out in 2014/15, found that Scottish young people had more negative attitudes to the police than young people in England.

At the time, Scotland had the highest incidence of stop and search in the UK.

Stop and search is a police power that allows officers to search and question someone of any age who is suspected of doing something illegal. In 2014 our office argued that – while lawful and proportionate use of stop and search was legitimate – there were serious concerns about its use in relation to children. Since then, changes have come into force in Scotland around how stop and search is conducted, in terms of both legislation and how it occurs in practice.

Welcoming the report, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson said:

“Good relationships with trusted adults are key to healthy childhoods and Police play an important role in keeping children and young people safe in our communities.”
“This useful research reinforces the need to take a human rights-based approach to policing, especially in relation to children. In 2014, when the data was collected, my office argued that although lawful and proportionate use of stop and search was a legitimate tool, there were serious concerns about its use in relation to children.”
“We know that children are far more likely to be victims of crime than to be a risk to others. It is no surprise that excessive use of stop and search of children did have a negative impact on the way Police were perceived and the research makes clear how important subsequent law and practice changes were, and remain.”