Stop and Search: What Are Your Rights?

Stop and Search: What Are Your Rights?

Disclaimer: This information should not be used as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact us, and a member of our specialist team will assist you.

Understanding your rights during a police stop and search is crucial. This article explains what stop and search involves, the types of stop and search, and your rights if you are subjected to this procedure. Hennah Haywood Law specialises in civil actions against the police, and we are here to help you understand and protect your rights.

What is Stop and Search?

Stop and search is a police power that allows officers to stop and search individuals. It is one of the most criticised police powers, often raising concerns about its use for racially motivated harassment.

Types of Stop and Search

There are two primary types of stop and search:

  1. Suspicion-Based Stop and Search
  2. Suspicionless Stop and Search

Suspicion-Based Stop and Search

A suspicion-based stop and search occurs when a police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that an individual is carrying stolen property or prohibited articles. Prohibited articles include weapons, drugs, items that could be used to commit crimes, and illegal fireworks.

Recent changes have extended these powers, allowing police to stop and search individuals if they suspect them of carrying something “made or adapted for use in the course of or in connection with” protest offences.

Suspicionless Stop and Search

Suspicionless searches, also known as section 60 searches (Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994), allow police officers to stop and search individuals without reasonable suspicion. However, certain criteria must be met:

  • The search must be conducted by an officer in uniform.
  • The officer must be authorised by a senior police officer of at least the rank of inspector.
  • The senior officer must reasonably believe that:
    1. An incident involving serious violence may occur in the area, and the search will help prevent it.
    2. An incident involving serious violence has occurred, and a weapon used in the incident is in the area.
    3. Individuals are carrying weapons without good reason.

Authorisation for section 60 searches lasts for 24 hours but can be extended for another 24 hours.

What Are Your Rights If You Are Stopped and Searched?

The police are trained on how to conduct stop and search procedures. Understanding their training can help you know your rights.

The GOWISELY Acronym

The College of Policing uses the acronym GOWISELY to guide officers:

  • Grounds for suspicion: The police must inform you of the basis for their reasonable suspicion (for suspicion-based searches only).
  • Object of the search: The police must explain what they are looking for.
  • Warrant card: The officer must show this to you if you ask.
  • Identity: The police must provide their name and shoulder number.
  • Station: The police must inform you which station they are from.
  • Entitlement to a search record: The police must provide a copy of the search record or information on how to obtain it.
  • Legal power used: The police must inform you of the legal power they are using for the stop and search.
  • You are detained for the search: The police must communicate that you are detained and not free to leave until permitted.

Duration of the Stop and Search

There is no set period for a stop and search, but it should be kept to a minimum.

Strip Search

A strip search is different from a standard stop and search. During a stop and search, the removal of an outer coat and gloves does not constitute a strip search.


The police cannot discriminate against you based on:

  • Race
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion or faith
  • Gender reassignment

If you believe you have been discriminated against or if the police have been rude, aggressive, or unhelpful, gather information (names, station number, and record) and submit a complaint or seek independent legal advice.

What Should You Do During a Stop and Search?

  • Ask if you are detained: “Am I being detained?” If not, you are not legally obliged to stay.
  • Do not flee or be violent.
  • Obtain a copy of the search record or information on how to get it.
  • Ensure you know the identity of the officer(s).
  • Ask the reason for the search.
  • Ask under which law the search is being conducted.
  • Once the search is over, ask if you are free to leave and, if not, when you will be permitted to leave and why.


Knowing your rights during a stop and search is vital for protecting yourself. If you have any concerns or need expert legal advice, contact us for a FREE claims assessment. At Hennah Haywood Law, we work on a no-win, no-fee basis and offer unique partnerships, including ATE insurance, to ensure you can make a claim with minimal financial worries.

Posted by Rachael
Director & Solicitor

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