Warning over powers to stop & search children for alcohol

Date: 26th July 2016
Category: Child justice system

Proposed new powers to stop & search children for alcohol could 'have long-term negative effects', the Law Society for Scotland has warned.

A Scottish government consultation on police powers to search children for alcohol closed on the 15th July. The consultation was carried out after an independent advisory group recommended that non-statutory, or consensual, stop and search should end when a new 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.

But 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 view on whether a new search power was desirable or necessary, and recommended the Scottish government should carry out a public consultation.

In its response to the consultation, the Law Society of Scotland said the searches could alienate young people and also that "we do not consider legislation would be necessary, or indeed desirable".

Ian Cruickshank, convener of the society's Criminal Law Committee, said: "Giving the police new powers to stop and search young people for alcohol could alienate them and may have long term negative effects, both for Police Scotland and young people in general.

"There is a risk that a new power to search a child or young person for alcohol would generate a disproportionate negative perception of children, as evidence shows only a small number of searches actually result in the finding of alcohol."

As yet, no decision has been made on the power to search children for alcohol.