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Legal briefing: what to do if the police decide to search you

Claire Dissington from Taylor Nichol Solicitors explains your rights under the latest anti-terrorism legislation

Issue No. 1963

You can be stopped and searched mainly for two reasons:

  • Under suspicion of having committed a crime, or of carrying an illegal substance or weapon.
  • Under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

In the latter case the police do not have to have reasonable grounds to justify them stopping and searching you.

But they are supposed to be looking for something in connection with terrorism. And the police must tell you under which act you are being stopped.

No matter why you are stopped or searched by the police, you do not have to provide your name, address or telephone number. You only have to provide this information if you are being arrested — in which case you should ask for a solicitor.

The police must tell you:

  • Why you are being stopped.
  • What their names or identification numbers are — though they don’t have to give their names under terrorism searches. If they are not in uniform, they must provide identification.
  • Which police station they are usually based in.
  • What they are looking for.

If you are stopped and searched by the police you should allow them to search you. The search must take place in a public place. They can ask you to remove your outer clothes. If asked they must supply a record of why you are being stopped.

If they are searching you under the Terrorism Act they can also ask you to remove headgear and footwear. If you wear a turban or a headscarf for religious reasons they must take you to a private room and must provide an officer of the same sex as yourself.

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Article information

Sat 13 Aug 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1963
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