The need for a new power to search children for alcohol: a review of the evidence
Dr Kath Murray and Professor Susan McVie submitted a response to the Scottish Government consultation on Police Powers to Search Children and Young People for Alcohol. The consultation, which closed on 15th July 2016, asked for views on whether the police should be given the following new search powers:
- The power to search a child or young person under the age of 18 for alcohol, where a constable has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is under the age of 18 and has alcohol in a public place.
- The power to search a person where a constable has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has alcohol in a public place, and that the person has supplied or intends to supply the alcohol to a person under the age of 18 for consumption in a public place.
In their response to the consultation, Dr Murray and Professor McVie reported that:
- Current intelligence-based approaches to stop and search are not particularly effective in detecting alcohol amongst young people, compared to older age groups, and to other approaches for dealing with alcohol possession.
- In practice, officers conduct few alcohol searches involving young people. In September 2015, six Divisions did not carry out any alcohol stop searches on young people aged seventeen or under, whilst four Divisions carried out less than five.
- There is a disparity between the overall distribution of underage drinking across Scotland, and rates of excessive drinking, which are higher in the west, and as such, warrant more targeted interventions, including those directed towards off sales.
- There is a risk that an additional search power for alcohol could aggravate relationships between young people and the police.