|Cllr Margaret Kennedy|
Councillor Tim Brett, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Fife Council and Councillor Margaret Kennedy, the group’s spokesperson on Police and Criminal Justice, are examining the pilot project that is being run in Fife in relation to Stop & Search.
The pilot will trial a number of new initiatives such as sending letters to any children under the age of 16 (looked after children under the age of 18) to advise their parents or guardians that they have been searched. Furthermore, following concessions secured by Scottish Liberal Democrats at Holyrood, children under the age of 12 will no longer be subjected to so-called ‘voluntary’ searches after the police conceded that they are incapable of giving informed consent.
The pilot will be undertaken between July and December this year and will then be formally evaluated.
The new arrangements will be reviewed by the Police’s Liaison Advisory Group. Schools, the University of St Andrews and colleges will also be updated on this every two months, with a report going to the Council’s Safer Communities Committee.
Councillor Brett explained, ‘There has been widespread concern across Scotland about the significant increase in the use of stop and search under the new national police force. There have been particular worries that there has been a major jump in the number of individuals who have been stopped and searched, with an astonishing 470% increase in Fife, as well as concerns about the number of young people and children who have been affected by this. I was therefore pleased to attend a presentation at Police Headquarters in Fife when we were advised of the introduction of a pilot in Fife that it is hoped will start to improve the way in which stop and search is used.’
Councillor Kennedy (pictured above) agreed. ‘This pilot is a step in the right direction, particularly for such a sensitive subject. It is welcome that Police Scotland are finally exploring how to introduce proper procedures and recording systems, although I believe Fife’s legacy force would have done this before rolling out the new stop and search policy – not more than a year later. Evidence-led, properly regulated stop and search can be an effective tool in detecting crime and making our streets safer; however, the current position in Fife is that 67% of stop and searches are voluntary with the remaining 33% being statutory. I remain concerned that this still means that two thirds of searches are conducted without sound legal basis, intelligence or suspicion.’
Councillor Brett added, ‘It is hoped that this pilot will provide us with a much clearer idea of the impact that stop and search is having on our communities.’