When can the police stop and search me? Redbridge officers explain

The Operation Sceptre team carry out a stop and search in a Romford alleyway. Photo: Ellena Cruse

The Operation Sceptre team carry out a stop and search in a Romford alleyway. Photo: Ellena Cruse - Credit: Archant

Can police officer search you if he smells cannabis wafting from your car?

What if the officer witnesses you jumping over a garden fence in a residential area?

The short answer is probably not, unless there are other additional causes for suspicion, the attendees of a Redbridge Safer Neighbourhoods Board meeting were surprised to find out on July 25.

During the meeting, in the Jack Carter Centre, in Ilford, Insp Lee Canter, Pc Sai Kaman, Pc Zebby Mahmood from East Area CID conducted a demonstration of how and when stop and searches can be carried out.

Insp Canter explained that officer must have “reasonable grounds” to stop and search someone and that these ground become stronger the higher the number of factors can be observed.

“You can a scale where you start with one, two or three things - such a smelling drugs,” he said.

“Then you have things such as the time of day; if you can see drugs paraphernalia in the car - such as rizzlas or cannabis resin - and if their eyes are jaded from drugs.”

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“You put all these together until you have got five, six or seven things.”

During an acted out simulation, the officers explained that the smell of cannabis alone would most likely not meet the threshold of reasonable grounds.

But, following the meeting, Insp Canter clarified there is no stipulated number of factors.

“There may be an occasion where there is only one ground present, but it is so compelling that it is sufficient to make the search lawful (i.e someone is seen to place a knife in their waistband,” he said.

Pc Kaman explained that the officers must follow a protocol called “GOWISELY”, which reminds them what information they must provide to some one being stopped and searched.

Officers must make clear their grounds for conducting the search and the object they are looking for.

They must identify themselves - showing their warrant particularly if they are in plain clothes as well as the location opf the station they are from.

They person being searched is also entitled to a copy of the 5090 form outlining the basic details, an explanation of the law under which the person is being detained to be searched.