Powers and law

Date published: 26 April 2023 14:33
Dated: 31 January 2020 10:41:53

Section 1, PACE 1984

Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 allows the police the power to stop and search persons, vehicles or anything that is in or on a vehicle.

This is if we have reasonable grounds to suspect that a person possesses any stolen articles, or prohibited / illegal articles (weapons etc.) and whether a person has committed, is committing, or is going to commit, an offence. For example, if a police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect someone of ‘Having a bladed or sharply pointed article in public place’.

We may conduct a search of a person or a vehicle using reasonable force if necessary. This includes restraint, without or with the use of handcuffs.

A person may be detained in order to carry out a stop and search power at the place at which they were stopped and detained, or at a place other than where they were first detained if that place is nearby and within reasonable travelling distance.

A police officer need not conduct a search if it subsequently appears to them that no search is required, or a search is impracticable. Stop and search powers depend on the likelihood that the person searched is in possession of an item for which they may be searched. It is imperative that there are reasonable grounds for the search. Without grounds, the search will be unlawful.

There is no requirement for the police officer to be in uniform when conducting a search under PACE.

Read more about Section 1 of PACE, here.

Section 23, Misuse of Drugs Act

A police officer who has reasonable grounds for suspecting that any person is in possession of a controlled drug may:

  • search that person, and detain them for the purpose of the search;
  • search any vehicle or vessel in which the officer suspects that the drug may be found, and for the purpose require the person in control of the vehicle or vessel to stop it;
  • seize and detain anything found in the course of the search, which appears to be evidence of an offence.

Read more about Section 23, Misuse of Drugs Act, here.

Section 60, Public Order Act

Section 60 is legislation, which means that when authorised by an inspector or above, officers in a specific geographical area have additional powers to carry out stop and searches on members of the public to prevent serious violence.

When authorisation is granted or extended under section 60, a police officer in uniform may, in the specified area and during the period for authorisation is given:

  • stop any pedestrian or any vehicle
  • search them or anything in their possession for offensive weapons or bladed or sharply pointed instruments
  • regardless as to whether or not they have any grounds for suspecting that there is on the person or vehicle any such weapons or articles
  • seize anything that is found.

This power is separate from and additional to the normal stop and search powers which require reasonable grounds to suspect an individual of carrying an offensive weapon (or other article), and must not be used to stop and search persons and vehicles for reasons unconnected with the purpose of the authorisation.

Section 60’s overall purpose is to prevent serious violence and the widespread carrying of weapons that might lead to people being seriously injured. Section 60 powers should not be used to deal with routine crime problems.

For example, section 60 powers may be granted to prevent serious violence or the carrying of offensive weapons at a specific event taking place in a specific area.

Section 60 powers can be granted for up to 24 hours at a time.

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