Police Scotland chief constable admits recording ‘several hundred thousand’ stop-searches in error

Police Scotland chief constable admits recording ‘several hundred thousand’ stop-searches in error

The chief constable of Police Scotland has admitted mistakenly recording “several hundred thousand” stop and searches per year.

Sir Stephen House (pictured) said the numbers of routine encounters, such as taking alcohol from young people had distorted official statistics.

Speaking before the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) on Friday, Sir Stephen took responsibility for “some mistakes in data gathering and presentation.”

Sir Stephen was summoned before the SPA after the BBC reported data that showed the force was in breach of its own policy which it brought into effect last year of not undertaking consensual searches of under 12s.

The BBC said there were 356 suspicionless searches following the change in policy.

The SPA has said previously that the statistics were inflated and were leading to political controversy.

It was told on Friday that the true number of under-12s who were consensually searched was 18.

Sir Stephen said: “I don’t think we should routinely be using consensual search on children.

“But it is a policy, not a law. If my officers step outside the policy and they have got a good reason, they will get 100 per cent of my support.”

He added that if “interventions” – where officers, for example, take alcohol from children – were discounted, the wholesale figures would plummet.

He said: “They would reduce by several hundred thousand.

“Why is it that Police Scotland stops so many more people than the Metropolitan Police or the New York City Police?

“Because we record as much of what we do as possible and, frankly, we are damned for going further in recording our contacts with citizens.

“I think we need to record them in the right box.”

A Scottish Police Federation spokesman said the SPA meeting could be “best summarised by saying ‘the numbers are guff’.”

Vic Emery, chairman of SPA challenged Sir Stephen to look at the effects targets may have had, while the force said the use of consensual searches needs to be reviewed.

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