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Stop and search

February 04 2013
As the Met launches an investigation following complaints, we ask for readers‘ experiences


An investigation has been launched into the use of stop and search powers by the Metropolitan Police following complaints that the force is unfairly targeting people on the basis of race.

The complaint was raised by Stuart Lawrence, the brother of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racist attack nearly 20 years ago. He claims he has been stopped and searched 25 times – which he describes as a sustained campaign of harassment.

Lawrence, a teacher, told the Daily Mail he had been repeatedly pulled over in his car over many years for “no apparent reason and without any justification”.

He said: “I am being targeted because of the colour of my skin, I don’t think it’s because I am Stephen’s brother. Whenever I have been stopped, I have never subsequently been charged with anything.”

Scotland Yard has referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and Met deputy commissioner Craig Mackey said: “This is a very serious matter and it will be investigated thoroughly and speedily.”

Readers of this magazine and homelessness professionals have also suggested that homeless people might be being unfairly targeted for searches across the UK.

Police can are allowed to stop and search someone if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is carrying drugs, weapons, stolen goods or anything that could be used to commit a crime.

However, police are not allowed to stop and search people just because of how they look, where they live or what they have done in the past. Some laws do allow the police to stop and search people even if they don’t have reasonable suspicion – in some places, including most of London, police can search anyone for things that could be used for terrorism. And if police expect violence in an area, they can impose a rule that allows them to search anyone in that area for weapons. However, police must tell everyone that they search who they are, why they are being searched, what they are looking for, what law they are being searched under, and that they can have a record of the search.

Full details of your rights if stopped and searched by the police are available in the Rights Guide for Rough Sleepers which The Pavement helped to publish – you can download a PDF on our homepage  or at

It is worth collecting the records of stops and searches – they are needed if you wish to take any action against the police for unfair treatment.

The Pavement will be glad to hear stories from any readers who feel that they or their friends have been unfairly targeted for searches.