The House of Commons Library has produced (yet again! - and I have to say, they regularly produce reports of high quality which are VERY useful!) - a report on Stop & Search powers. It's a useful briefing paper for anyone interested in the topic - and relevant to Law Students (especially OU W201 & W200)
The full paper is available at http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn03878.pdf. The summary states:
The police have a range of powers to stop and search people. The most widely used of these is under section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) which accounts for over one million stops and searches per year. This allows the police to stop people or vehicles in public places and search them for stolen goods and other articles. However, like most stop and search powers, this only applies where the constable has “reasonable suspicion” that these articles will be found.
There are two powers which do not require the police to have “reasonable suspicion” of the individual being stopped and searched:
• The police can authorise stops and searches under the Terrorism Act 2000. The rules governing these have recently been reformed following a judgement by the European Court of Human Rights that they violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to privacy).A separate Library Standard Note (SN/HA/6742) deals with Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (stop and search at airports etc)
• Under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, a senior officer can authorise such stops and searches in a particular area if he or she reasonably believes that serious violence may take place or that people are carrying offensive weapons. This provision has also recently been subject to a legal challenge.
Both these have proved particularly controversial, but stop and search powers generally have long been at the centre of tensions between Black people and the police. Overall, Black people are stopped and searched around seven times more than White people. In 2010 the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a report examining some of the explanations which have been given for this disproportionality. Stops and searches were cited in a number of reports on the August 2011 riots in England as being a cause of resentment.
A Metropolitan Police review has resulted in recent changes to policy in London, including a more intelligence-led and targeted approach. In July 2013, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced a public consultation into the use of stop and search powers. Responses are currently being analysed. There were media reports in January 2014 that the Prime Minister was blocking plans by the Home Secretary to restrict the use of stop and search.