Your rights including stop and search
If you do something that results in police involvement - perhaps you're arrested for a suspected crime - or if you're stopped and searched in the street, you need to understand what your rights are:
- It is your right that the police treat you fairly and with respect at all times.
- As the police we must follow the rules set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) codes, which outline how we have to treat you, and what rights you have: for example, if you have been arrested you have the right to speak with a solicitor and to let a family member or friend know that you've been arrested.
When it comes to stop and search, you have rights too.
You will not be stopped in any way by the police just because of your:
- ethnic background
- because you have committed a crime in the past.
We can stop and search you for other reasons including:
- as part of our anti-terrorism efforts
- if there has been serious violence or disorder in the area
- if we are looking for a suspect who fits your description
- if we have reasonable grounds to suspect you're carrying a weapon, drugs or stolen property
If you are found to be carrying one of these three things, the consequences can be very serious. Find out more about the law surrounding weapons, drugs or stolen property in other sections of our site.
Or for more information on stop and search visit our website.
Why do the police use stop and search?
Stop and search normally takes place in public places, particularly in neighbourhoods experiencing problems with crime, but it can happen anywhere.
The police have a right and a duty to stop and talk to members of the public and in certain circumstances to search them. This is done in order to protect Londoners, tackle crime and keep our streets safe.
Under most circumstances police need grounds to search you but some stop and search powers allow you to be searched without grounds, for example, if you are in an area where there is a risk of serious violence or disorder.
Things you should know:
- Being stopped does not mean that you are under arrest or that you have necessarily done something wrong.
- If you are stopped by the police, you are required to stay for the duration of the search. If necessary, you will be prevented from walking away.
- We must use the search powers fairly, responsibly and with respect for people without discriminating.
- We must make sure that the search time is kept to a minimum.
- The search must take place near to where you are stopped, except on occasions where moving you would protect your privacy.
- You should receive a written record of the search or a receipt at the time of the event.
- We do not have the power to stop you in order to find a reason for a search.
If you are in a public place, you only have to take off your coat or jacket and any gloves that you are wearing, unless you have been stopped in relation to terrorism or where we believe you are using clothes to hide your identity.
If it is necessary to take off more than this or any items that you wear for religious reasons, such as a face scarf, veil or turban, we will take you somewhere out of public view for your own privacy. This does not mean that you are being arrested. In cases such as this, the police officer that searches you will be the same sex as you.
There are three different types of stops you might get:
1. Stop and account
A police officer or police community support officer stops and speaks with lots of people throughout their normal course of business. However in this case they might ask you to tell them why you’re there. They may ask you:
- What you are doing?
- Where have you been?
- Where you are going?
- What you are carrying?
They then have to record this as a stop and account and ask you your self defined ethnicity, then give you a form.
2. Stop and search
This is when a police officer stops and then searches:
- your clothes
- anything that you are carrying - like a bag or wallet, for example
- a vehicle you are travelling in
3. Vehicle stop
A police officer in uniform can stop any vehicle and ask the driver for their driving documents. This is not the purpose of stop and search, but you may be given documentation relevant to road traffic. However it may become a stop and account or stop and search if:
- you or any passengers with you are asked to explain why they are there, where they are going, and what they are carrying
- a search is carried out of the vehicle, yourself or any passengers with you
Who is allowed to stop you?
- a police officer
- a police community support officer (PCSO)
A PCSO can only stop and account and must be in uniform.
For some types of stop a police officer must also be wearing a uniform - for example those under section 60 (Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994).
Find out more about these on our main Metropolitan Police website. In the instances where a police officer does not have to be in uniform they must show you their warrant card for proof of identification.