Reasonable grounds for suspicion

Most stop and search powers can only be exercised where the constable is acting on ‘reasonable suspicion’. This includes the power to search a person for illegal drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the power to search for stolen or prohibited items under PACE. The meaning of ‘reasonable suspicion’ is found in Code A.

There must be some basis for the officer’s belief, related to you personally, which can be considered and evaluated by an objective third person. Mere suspicion based on hunch or instinct might justify observation but cannot justify a search.

However, reasonable suspicion can sometimes exist without specific information or intelligence and on the basis of some level of generalisation stemming from the behaviour of a person. For example, if an officer encounters someone on the street at night obviously trying to hide something, this clearly constitutes conduct that might reasonably lead the officer to suspect that stolen or prohibited articles are being carried.

The power must be used fairly, responsibly, with respect for people being searched and without unlawful discrimination. This would include discrimination on grounds of race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality or national origin. Accordingly, reasonable grounds for suspicion cannot be based solely on attitudes or prejudices towards certain types of people, such as membership of a group within which offenders of a certain kind are relatively common - for example, young football fans. Nor can it be based solely on your skin colour, age, hairstyle, mode of dress or previous convictions.
kitsiteLottery Funded