The Scottish Government is seeking views on whether the police should be given the following search powers;
- The power to search a child or young person under the age of 18 for alcohol, where a constable has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is under the age of 18 and has alcohol in a public place
- The power to search a person where a constable has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has alcohol in a public place, and that the person has supplied or intends to supply the alcohol to a person under the age of 18 for consumption in a public place
In March last year, the Scottish Government’s Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson asked John Scott QC, Solicitor Advocate, to chair an independent Advisory Group on Stop and Search.
The Advisory Group recommended that non-statutory (or consensual) Stop and Search should end when a new Stop and Search Code of Practice comes into force next year. From that point on the police will be able to search a person only where they have a specific legal power to do so. In their report, the Advisory Group highlighted a potential legislative gap once consensual search ends, as the police do not currently have a specific legal power to search children and young people for alcohol. However, the Group’s members were unable to reach a conclusive view on whether a new search power was desirable or necessary. They therefore recommended that the Scottish Government should carry out this public consultation.
This is a complex issue and the right balance must be struck to ensure that the police have the powers that they need to safeguard and protect the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, while at the same time ensuring that the rights of the individual are protected.