The police can stop and question or search children but there are strict rules the police must follow.
Stop and Account
A police officer may stop someone and ask them:
- what they’re doing?
- why they’re in an area and/or where they’re going?
The person doesn’t have to answer any questions the police officer asks them. This is called stop and account. There is no age restriction on who the police can ask to stop and account.
Stop and Search
A police officer has powers to stop and search someone if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect they’re carrying:
- illegal drugs
- a weapon
- stolen property
- something which could be used to commit a crime, eg a crowbar
- fireworks (if under the age of 18)
The police should have good reasons for the search.
Before the search the police officer must tell the person the intend to search:
- their name and police station
- what they expect to find, eg drugs
- the reason they want to search you
- why they are legally allowed to search you
The police must make a record of the search and give the person search a copy - if this isn’t possible at the time, they must explain how to get a copy. There is no minimum age requirement for a person to be stopped and searched, this means that although children cannot be held criminally responsible until they are 10, they may be subjected to a police stop and search.
The Metropolitan Police have issued guidance on how under 10 year olds should be treated if stopped and searched which states that children under 10 when found in possession of illegal items after a stop and search “should be considered as an exploited victim rather than an offender.”
Watch our video about stop and search here.