The Met Police has apologised after a disturbing and unjustified strip-search of a black schoolgirl that was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis. The search has raised questions on what people’s rights are when being searched by the police.
Here is some important information regarding your rights if you are stopped and searched:
The police can only search you if they have strong evidence of criminal activity and before they search you, they must give you information such as their name, police station and the reason they want to search you. Also, the police must inform you if you can have a record of the search and how to get a copy.
It is important to know that if the police have no grounds to issue a warrant, you can explain to them they do not have the right to search you. But if they have grounds to warrant a search and have provided you with their police ID and their reason for the search, you cannot legally refuse.
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, such as a crowbar
Without reasonable grounds, you can only be searched if it has been approved by a senior police officer and 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
Can a police officer ask you to remove your clothes?
The police might ask you to take off certain clothes including anything you’re wearing for religious reasons – for example, a veil. If they do, they must take you somewhere out of public view. A police officer can also ask you to take off your coat, jacket, or gloves.
Can the police strip search you?
If the officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves, they must be the same sex as you and it must be in a private area with at least two people present. If an underage person is being searched at least one of the two people present must be an appropriate adult.
A strip search can only take place if an officer believes you’re carrying something illegal and that you are concealing it beneath your clothes.