Guide to Police Law in Great Britain

UK police powers to stop and search: your rights

The UK police have powers to stop and question you at any time - they can search you depending on the situation.

Being searched doesn’t mean you’re being arrested.

A PCSO - police community support officer must be in uniform. A UK police officer doesn’t always have to be in uniform but if they’re not wearing uniform they must show you their warrant card.

Stop and question: UK police powers

A UK police officer has powers to stop you at any time and ask you: what you’re doing and why you’re in an area and/or where you’re going. However, you don’t have to answer any questions the UK police officer asks you.

Stop and search: UK police powers

A UK police officer has powers to stop and search you if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect you’re carrying either drugs or anything that could be used in a crime, or if you are carrying an illegal weapon or stolen goods. You can only be stopped and searched without reasonable grounds if it has been approved by a senior UK police officer. This can happen 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

Before you’re searched

The UK police officer must tell you: their name and their local police station / what they expect to find, eg drugs, bombs etc / the reason they want to search you, eg it looks like you’re hiding something, you are acting suspiciously... / why they are legally allowed to search you / that you can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how you can get a copy

Removing clothing: UK police powers: A UK police officer can ask you to take off your coat, jacket or gloves. The UK police might ask you to take off other clothes and anything you’re wearing for religious reasons - eg a veil or turban. If they do, they must take you somewhere out of public view. The office must be the same sex as you.