Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie is pushing for an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill that would stop voluntary police stop-and-searches in Scotland. The Liberal Democrat leader wants the practice abolished and legislation introduced to ensure that police are unable to abuse such a power and the freedoms of innocent citizens are not threatened.
If Rennie receives enough support to push the proposal through, Scottish police would be required to focus on criminal suspects and comply with certain legal requirements, The Courier reported. Such inspections would be unjustified unless there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Rennie told the audience at the Liberal Democrat conference in Aberdeen that the proposed amendment would “put stop and search on a regulated footing.”
The use of stop-and-search practises have risen fourfold and concerns have been raised that the system lends itself to abuse, partly due to the lack of full and proper records. More than 70% of the stop-searches conducted at present are voluntary and the Scottish Police Authority says they must be “intelligence-led, proportionate and respectful.” However, police officers do not currently meet some of the legal requirements connected with this power and the introduction of legislation would protect innocent citizens, Willie said.
Alison McInnes, justice spokeswomen for the Lib Dems, said that stop-and-search powers were an essential weapon in the fight against crime when used appropriately, but without proper constraints various abuses can occur. Moreover, there is no conclusive evidence that the increase in stop-searches is linked to the sharp decline in crime; there is in fact a very real risk the policy is being justified by the inconsistent recording of positive results as a best-case scenario, and at worst results are being manipulated, McInnes added.