STOP AND QUESTION: POLICE POWERS
The police have powers to stop and question you at any time - they can search you depending on the situation.
A police community support officer (PCSO) must be in uniform when they stop and question you. A police officer doesn’t always have to be in uniform but if they’re not wearing uniform they must show you their warrant card.
Stop and question: police powers
A police officer has powers to stop you at any time and ask you:
- what you’re doing
- why you’re in an area and/or where you’re going
However, you don’t have to answer any questions the police officer asks you.
STOP AND SEARCH: POLICE POWERS
A police officer has powers to stop and search you if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect you’re carrying:
- illegal drugs
- a weapon
- stolen property
- something which could be used to commit a crime, eg a crowbar
You can only be stopped and searched without reasonable grounds if it has been approved by a senior police officer. This can happen if it is suspected that:
- serious violence could take place
- you’re carrying a weapon or have used one
- you’re in a specific location or area
BEFORE YOU'RE SEARCHED
Before you’re searched the police officer must tell you:
- their name and police station
- what they expect to find, eg drugs
- the reason they want to search you, eg it looks like you’re hiding something
- why they are legally allowed to search you
- that you can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how you can get a copy
REMOVING CLOTHING: POLICE POWERS
A police officer can ask you to take off your coat, jacket or gloves.
The police might ask you to take off other clothes and anything you’re wearing for religious reasons - eg a veil or turban. If they do, they must take you somewhere out of public view.
If the officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves they must be the same sex as you.
Being searched doesn’t mean you’re being arrested.
Unless you've been arrested, you are a free person to say and do whatever you wish, within reason that is. Would you think its OK if a random stranger comes up to you and asks you to empty your pockets and see what's in your bag? Is it fine for a group of unknown individuals to go through your home or vehicle without your permission or the correct authority to do so? No. Non. Nein. Niet. Nai. NO! NO! NO!!!! The police are no different. If you are minding your business and are suddenly being approached and harassed by the police, it is highly unlikely that they are doing their duty to protect and serve, and are more likely to be on the quest for that arrest... and more. Therefore, you don't need to get into a conversation with an officer, as counter-intuitive as that may be for many people.
Non-compliance to police questioning gives you the best chance of staying somewhat "free", as opposed to being held in a cell over at the local station. Try to say as little as possible, as little as you need to, as of course; anything you do say may be given in evidence.