Police Scotland to end stop and search on children

Stop and search Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Police Scotland carried out 640,000 stop searches last year, including 25,000 which involved children

Police Scotland is to end the practice of consensual stop searches on children under the age of 12.

Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson made the announcement to a Holyrood committee.

He also announced a pilot scheme in Fife in which the parents of all children subject to stop and search would be given a letter explaining why.

There were 640,000 stop searches last year, with 25,000 involving children.

The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is currently eight - one of the lowest in Europe.

Mr Mawson's comments to the Scottish parliament committee appeared to indicate that the change to stop search procedures would cover those under eight.

Police Scotland later clarified that these searches would end for all children under 12.

Mr Mawson, who has responsibility for local policing in the west of Scotland, told the Scottish Parliament's justice sub-committee that ending the practice was "about doing the right thing".

Language and approach

Last month a Freedom of Information request revealed children under 16 had committed more than 40,000 offences in Scotland in the past two years.

Data obtained by BBC Scotland showed officers carried out 2,912 searches on children aged eight to 12 between April and December 2013.

The Scottish Police Authority was asked to review stop and search on children following concerns about increasing use of the power.

Mr Mawson said he "thoroughly" believed that stop search was effective in reducing particular crimes but said the force had agreed it needed to change its language and approach.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes welcomed the decision.

"I am delighted that after months of pressing the authorities for change to protect children, Police Scotland have finally conceded that the position was indefensible," she said.

"This is a victory for children and their rights. We've argued all along for them to be protected.

"This acceptance of the problems of voluntary stop and search demonstrates change is required. That change cannot stop here."

Under the new Fife pilot the details of every person stopped and searched, and the reason why, will be recorded.

In England and Wales children are held responsible for crimes at age 10. In Germany, Italy and Russia it is 14.

Scottish ministers have increased the age of criminal prosecution to 12, meaning children aged between eight and 12 would be referred to the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration but not to the procurator fiscal.

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