Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why might my child be stopped and searched?

Searches under PACE Code A, Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 can only be carried out if the officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that they will find what they are looking for. Searches under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and Section 47A of the Terrorism Act 2000 do not require the officers to have reasonable suspicion that they will find anything. Unless your child matches a description of a suspect, officers must not base their grounds on their appearance, what they are wearing or the fact that they may have committed a crime in the past. Appearance would include factors such as your age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion/belief, sex or sexual orientation.

 

2. Who can stop and search you?

Police Officers can search people or vehicles under any of the powers listed above. Chief Constables in each force area can choose whether to give powers to Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) to carry out some types of stop and search.

 

3. How should a stop and search be carried out?

Before a person or vehicle is searched, the officer must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the person understands:

  • that they must stay and be searched
  • what law is being used
  • the officer's name and/or ID number
  • the Police Station the officer works from
  • why the officer stopped you,
  • what the officer is looking for
  • your right to a record of the search or a receipt.

The officer will try and get the person's co-operation for the search, but may use reasonable force if necessary.

Searches will normally be carried out close to where the person was stopped.

A child should only be detained for as long as necessary to carry out the search.

Extensive searches must only be carried out when the circumstances suggest it is necessary.

 

4. What could your child be asked to remove?

An officer can ask your child to remove their coat, jacket or gloves in public.

An officer searching your child under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 can ask them to remove anything that they believe they are wearing to conceal their identity in public.

An officer searching a child under Section 47A of the Terrorism Act 2000 can ask them to remove headgear and footwear in public in addition to their coat, jacket and gloves. Officers do not need to be the same sex as the child, but will be mindful of cultural sensitivities around the removal of headgear worn for religious reasons. The officer can ask the child to take off more than an outer coat, jacket or gloves, and anything worn for religious reasons, such as a face scarf, veil or turban, but only if the child is taken somewhere out of public view.

Searches involving the removal of anything worn for religious reasons or more than outer coat, jacket, gloves will normally be done by an officer of the same sex as the child and out of sight of anyone of the opposite sex.

 

5. What is recorded on your stop and search receipt?

If your child/children are searched and they are not arrested as a result, they have the right to a receipt, unless there are exceptional circumstances which make it impracticable for the officer to make a record of the search.

The officer must record the following details:

  • how they describe their ethnic background
  • the date, time and place they were stopped and searched
  • why they were stopped or searched
  • the name and/or number of the officer carrying out the search
  • what they were searching for.

If they are searched, but then arrested and taken to a police station, the officer must record details of the search on the custody record. They will still have a right to receive a copy of the search record.

 

6. What can you do if you are unhappy about how your child was treated?

The officer should treat your child fairly and with respect. If you are unhappy with how they were treated, you can complain. It will help if you keep the receipt that the Police gave your child. You can get advice about how to make a complaint from:

  • a Police Station
  • a Citizen's Advice Bureau
  • the Independent Police Complaints Commission
  • the Equality and Human Rights Commission or a solicitor.

 

7. What kind of knives can your child carry in public?

The only article with a blade or point that they can carry in public is a folding pocket knife with a cutting edge not exceeding 7.62 cm (3 inches). It is a matter for the courts to determine what would be an article with a blade or that is sharply pointed.

A knife could also be an offensive weapon for the purposes of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953, which prohibits the carrying of offensive weapons without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. It is a matter for the courts to determine what constitutes lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

 

8. Can my child carry a folding knife in public if the blade does not exceed 7.62 centimetres?

The prohibition of carrying an article with blade or point in a public place (section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988) does not apply to a folding pocket knife if the cutting edge of its blade does not exceed 7.62 centimetres (3 inches).

However, under the Prevention of Crime Act 1953, it could still be an offence if the article is being carried with the intention to cause injury.

It should be noted that it has been determined that a lock knife does not come into the category of folding pocket knives.

 

9. Can my child carry my multi-tool knife in a public place?

Possession of a multi-tool knife is capable of being an offence if it contains a blade or point (except a folding pocket knife of less than 3 inches), even if there are other tools on the instrument (for example, screwdriver or can-opener) that may be of use to a person in a public place.

In addition, if a multi-tool knife is being carried with the intention to cause injury, then the person carrying it could be committing an offence under the Prevention of Crime Act 1953.

 

10. Can my child carry a knife in public if they need it for school or work?

The Prevention of Crime Act 1953 prohibits the carrying of offensive weapons in public places without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. It is a matter for the courts to determine what constitutes lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to prove that he or she had good reason or lawful authority to have the article in a public place.

In addition, it is a defence to prove that the article is for use at work. However, it is a matter for the courts whether this defence applies in a particular case.

 

11. Are ceramic knives prohibited?

Ceramic knives come into the category of stealth knives and are therefore a specified weapon for the purposes of section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Ceramic knives are stealth knives as they are 'made from a material that is not readily detectable by apparatus used for detecting metal'. It is an offence to manufacture, import, sell or hire, or offer for sale or hire, expose or have in their possession for the purpose of sale or hire, or lend or give to any other person a stealth knife. A ceramic knife would not be a stealth knife if it is designed for domestic use or for use in the processing, preparation or consumption of food or as a toy.

 

12. My children are 14 and 17 years of age, can they use an air rifle?

They can borrow an air rifle and ammunition or use an air rifle without supervision, on private premises where they have permission.

They cannot buy or hire an air rifle, or ammunition, or receive one as a gift. The air rifle and ammunition must be bought and looked after by someone over 18 – normally a parent, carer or some other responsible adult. 

They cannot have an air rifle in a public place unless they are supervised by somebody aged 21 or over, and they have a reasonable excuse to do so (for example, while on the way to a shooting ground).

 

13. My child is under 14, can he/she possess an airgun?

They can use an air rifle under supervision on private premises with permission from the occupier - normally the owner or tenant. The person who supervises them must be at least 21 years old.

Those under 18 cannot buy, hire or receive an air rifle or its ammunition as a gift, or shoot, without adult supervision.

Parents or carers who buy an air rifle for use by someone under 14 must exercise control over it at all times, even in the home or garden.

 

It is illegal to sell an air rifle or ammunition to a person under 18 years of age.

 

14. What if my child refuses to be searched?

If your child refuses to be searched or if you object to it, this carries the risk of your child not being allowed into school. Schools have a statutory power and duty of care to everyone who comes into the school.

 

15. As a pupil, what human rights does my child have?

Under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights pupils have a right to respect for their private life. In the context of these particular powers, this means that pupils have the right to expect a reasonable level of personal privacy.

The right under article 8 is not absolute, it can be interfered with but any interference with this right by a school (or any public body) must be justified and proportionate. 

The powers to search in the Education Act 1996 are compatible with article 8.  A school exercising those powers lawfully should have no difficulty in demonstrating that it has also acted in accordance with article 8. This advice will assist schools in deciding how to exercise the searching powers in a lawful way. 

www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2010/ukpga_20100015_en_1

Please refer to the website below for a more in-depth view on United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC):

www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/healthandwellbeing/b0074766/uncrc