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Stop and search


There are several grounds that the police may legally stop and search a person, however, most of the grounds are too complex to list here.

The grounds for stop and search that often concern members of the public are where the officer has reasonable grounds for suspicion that the person is in unlawful possession of, or has unlawfully obtained an article, is a terrorist, or to prevent an act of terrorism.

The fact that the officer knows that a person has previous convictions is not sufficient grounds for reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicious also cannot be formed on the person's age, race or sex alone. There must also be some specific information or intelligence, see below for examples of stop and search powers.

    Officer B is on patrol and is aware that there have been a number of robberies with the use of a knife in the area. Officer B sees a young man in a shop doorway who appears to put a folding knife inside the front of his trousers. When questioned about his behaviour, he becomes evasive and denies putting anything into his trousers. Officer B decides there are reasonable grounds to suspect that he will find stolen or prohibited articles.
  • Can Officer B search him?
    Officer B can search him in a public place but only outer clothing. In this instance, it will be necessary to go beyond outer clothing to find the concealed property. Therefore, if he is required to remove more than an outer coat, jacket or gloves, it must be done out of public view. "Out of public view" is not defined but the shop doorway is inappropriate, as would be a quiet street.
  • Officer C is on patrol when she sees THOMAS, a well-known local house burglar who has numerous convictions walking towards her.
  • Would Officer C have sufficient grounds to search him?
    Officer C does not have reasonable grounds to search him. Previous convictions or other personal factors either alone or combined can never give the grounds to search someone. However, there is nothing to stop Officer C from approaching him and speaking to him. If he does not want to speak to her, then she has no power to detain him.

An officer must comply with several guidelines prior to and during a stop and search,

  • the officer must tell the person the grounds for the search
  • the officer must inform them of the object of search (to find drugs, offensive weapons etc)
  • the officer must show the person their warrant card if in plain clothes or requested;
  • the officer must tell the person their identity;
  • the officer must also tell the person to which station they are attached,
  • the officer must tell the person that they are being detained for the purpose of the search

All stops and searches must be carried out with courtesy, consideration and respect for the person concerned. The length of time for which a person or vehicle may be detained must be reasonable and kept to a minimum.

There are wider powers available to officers who suspect that a person is a terrorist and they do not have to comply with the above but they must reasonably suspect that the person is a terrorist.

For any concerns about the use of the stop and search powers, you should contact your local policing team via their 101 number.

This power to stop and search is aimed at preventing crime. This is an entirely different power than a road traffic stop, see Q723 for more details.


The co-operation of the person to be searched must be sought in every case, even if the person initially objects to the search. A forcible search may be made only if it has been established that the person is unwilling to co-operate or resists. Reasonable force may be used as a last resort if necessary to conduct a search or to detain a person or vehicle for the purposes of a search.


Yes, you can have a copy of the form.

If the police officer uses a paper record of the stop/stop and search you should be handed a copy of the form at the time you were stopped. If not, you have 3 months from the date of the stop/search to obtain a copy of the form. To obtain a copy of the form you would need to attend at the station from which the officer who carried out the search is attached. You would need to take some form of identification with you.

If the officer is using electronic means to record the stop/search then you should be handed a receipt of the record. Where a stop and search occurred details of how the full form can be accessed should also be given. The person can request a hard copy or electronic copy but not both.

See websites in related information for more details.


Police Officers no longer have to make a record of all stops and are not required to provide a receipt. A stop is defined as:

"Where an officer asks the person to account for their actions, behaviour, presence in an area, or possession of anything."

The person stopped will not have to give their name or address nor their ethnicity, unless it is the policy of that particular officer's force to record it. The officer is required to inform the person who they are and give their name, collar number etc.

If a person is dissatisfied with how they have been treated, they can raise the issue with their local police force.

If a person is stopped and searched then a record must be made. Details on acquiring a copy of this form can be found at Q489.


There is nothing in law to prevent a person from being stopped and searched more than once on any day, as long as the legal requirements are fulfilled on each occasion. Please see the following question for the legal requirements:

On what grounds can the police stop and search me?


No, the police do not need any reason to stop any person driving a mechanically propelled vehicle or riding a pedal cycle on a road. The police can then require that you provide your name, date of birth (in certain circumstances), driving licence, insurance and MoT certificates. Failure to comply with any of these requirements is an offence.

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