Stop and search

To help detect and prevent crime in the local community, the police have a legal right to stop and search people in public in certain circumstances.

Stop and search explained

Stop and search powers are police interventions to keep people safe. They are used to address drug offences, burglary, theft and terrorism. They allow police officers to search you or your vehicle if they have reasonable grounds to do so. They must use the search powers fairly, responsibly and with respect for people. 

The police are not allowed to stop and search just because of your religion, race, age, the way you look, or the clothes you're wearing.

Who can stop and search you

Any police officer can stop and search you. If they are not in uniform they must identify themselves before the search takes place.  The stop and search action doesn't mean you're under arrest or that you’ve done something wrong. 

The reasons police can stop and search you

The police can stop and search you:

  • if there has been serious violence or disorder in the area
  • if police are looking for a suspect who fits your description
  • if police have reasonable grounds to suspect you’re carrying drugs, a weapon or stolen property
  • in countering terrorism

What happens in a stop and search

If you're stopped and searched:

  • you must stay for all of the search
  • police must make sure the search time is as short as possibl
  • the search must take place where you were stopped or nearby, unless moving you would protect your privacy

Before a search, a police officer must tell you the grounds for the search, what they're looking for, their name (except where the stop and search is to do with terrorism) and the station they’re attached to.

If you're in a public place, you'll be asked to remove your coat or jacket and any headgear or gloves worn, unless the search is to do with terrorism or when police believe you're using clothes to hide your identity. They can ask you to empty your pockets and open any baggage to help the search.

Being searched away from public view

The police can only search you more thoroughly if they believe you might be hiding a banned item or illegal substance. They must search you out of public view. The officer doing the search must be the same sex as you.

Police officers must complete a record of the search electronically. After the search you will receive a card with your unique reference number and details of how to get a copy of the search record. You can ask for a copy of the record up to 12 months after the stop and search.

Results of the stop and search

A stop and search may result in:

  • an arrest
  • a community resolution
  • a report to the Public Prosecution Service
  • the issue of a penalty notice or disorder

How to complain

You can complain to the Police Ombudsman's Office if you think that you've been treated unfairly and feel you've only been stopped and searched because of:

  • your religion
  • your race
  • your appearance
  • no particular reason

 

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.