Stop and Search

As a young person growing up in the Ealing Borough, it is possible you may have been stopped and searched by the Police or a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) in uniform or in their own clothes, but must show you their warrant (ID) card. Being stopped does not mean you are under arrest or have done anything wrong but it may be as part of a wider crackdown on crime in a specific area.

Whilst they are doing their jobs we feel it is important for you to know your rights.

The types of stops you may encounter

Stop and Account

Stop and Search

Vehicle Stop

Stop and Account

This is when a police officer or PCSO stops you in a public place and asks you questions to account for yourself and may ask you:

  • What is your name?
  • What you are doing?
  • Where have you been?
  • Where are you going?
  • Where are you carrying?

If it is a stop and account, you do not have to stop or answer questions. To be clear, always ask the police why they have stopped you and whether it’s a stop and search or a stop and account. If it is a stop and account and the police have no reason to suspect you, failure to answer a stop and account can not be a reason to search you or arrest you.

Stop and Search

This is when a police officer stops and then searches you and anything you’re carrying.

They have the power to stop and search you if an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you have been involved in a crime, or think that you are in possession of  prohibited item. 

Prohibited items include drugs, weapons and stolen property. Depending on what the police find on your during a search, you could be arrested.

Vehicle Stop

This is when a police officer stops a vehicle.

A police officer can legally stop any vehicle at any time and ask to see driving documents, check the condition of the vehicle or deal with driving offences. This is not a stop and search and you may be given documentation relevant to road traffic matters. If the entire process ends there, this is considered a ‘vehicle stop’.

It becomes a stop and account if you or any passengers with you are asked to account for themselves.

If a police officer then searches the vehicle or persons in it, this is a stop and search.

What will happen

The police officer or police community support officer must explain why you’re being stopped and why you’re being asked to account for your actions or presence in an area.

What you should be told

The police officer or police community support officer must explain why you’re being stopped and why you’re being asked to account for your actions or presence in an area.

In almost all cases, you should be offered a record of the stop and account or stop and search at the time it happens.

The police use these powers to help make the local community safer by preventing and detecting crime. Naturally, public cooperation is an essential part of that.

Where you can be searched

Stop and search most often happens in public places. However, there are some powers, such as searching for firearms or drugs, which allow police to search people anywhere.

If you’re in a public place, you may be required to remove your coat or jacket and your gloves, unless you’ve been stopped in relation to terrorism or where the officer believes you are using clothes to hide your identity.

If the officer asks you to take off more than this, or anything you wear for religious reasons, such as a face scarf, veil or turban, they must take you somewhere out of public view. This doesn’t mean you’re being arrested.

What to expect from the officer stopping or searching you

The officer must be polite and respectful at all times. We are committed to continuously improving standards around the delivery of service to our communities.

We’re aware that the process may take a little time but it should be handled quickly and professionally. The police officer may ask a few questions and then, if they consider it necessary, will search you.

The search is not voluntary. If you don’t cooperate the officer can use reasonable force to conduct the search.

If the officer has a body worn video camera they’ll record the encounter unless it’s considered no longer necessary or proportionate.

Information you'll receive during a stop and search

The police officer who stops and searches you must provide you with certain information including:

  • Why you’ve been stopped and searched
  • Why they chose you
  • What they’re looking for
  • Their name and the station where they’re based (unless the search is in relation to suspected terrorist activity or giving his or her name may place the officer in danger. They must then give their warrant ID number)
  • The law under which you’ve been stopped
  • Your right to a copy of the their form

The information you'll be asked for

The police officer will ask for your:

  • Name and address
  • Date of birth
  • Ethnicity

You don’t have to give this information if you don’t want to; unless the police officer says they’re reporting you for an offence.

What you will be given

You should be offered one of the following:

  • A written record of the stop and search
  • A receipt at the time of the event
  • A copy of the record emailed to you
  • You may be told where to collect the record later

If you wish to complain either about being stopped or searched or the way it was carried out, this record/receipt will help identify the circumstances.

The search record must contain the following information:

  • The officer’s details
  • Date, time and place of the stop and search
  • Reason for the stop and search
  • Outcome of the stop and search
  • Your self-defined ethnicity
  • Vehicle registration number (if relevant)
  • What the officer was looking for and anything they found
  • Your name or a description if you refuse to give your name


You’ve not been subject to a stop and search if, for example:

  • You’re searched as a condition of entry to premises or an event
  • You’re searched following an arrest
  • You’re searched in premises that are being searched under a warrant from a court

In cases like these, a stop and search record will not be made and you’ll not be given a receipt.

You’ve not been subject to stop and account if, for example:

  • You stop an officer to ask for directions or information
  • You’ve witnessed a crime and are questioned about it to establish the background to the incident
  • You’ve been in an area where a crime recently occurred and are questioned about what you might have seen

In cases like these, a record of the encounter will not be made and you’ll not be given a receipt.

The main legislation that covers police use of stop and search is the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Searches for controlled drugs are covered by section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

For more information on Stop and search and your rights click on the link below

A guide to police complaints for young people