What is the reason for the procedure of stop-and-account to be defined and named if it does not carry any powers to compel a subject to comply with it?
What is the reason for the procedure of stop-and-account to be defined and named?
- Short Answer:
The need for a published, standardised and consistent approach for recording non-arrest interactions with members of the public to assess police performance and behaviours, and raise public awareness of certain police powers.
- Long Answer:
Police interactions with members of the public has had chequered past (to say the least) - such as the misuse of "Sus law" at section 4 Vagrancy Act 1824, stop-and-search powers (predominantly) under section 1 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and/or section23(2) Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and quite significantly the publicity surrounding the mishandling of the investigstions in to the murder of Stephen Lawrence which brought in to sharp focus, among other things, the lack of usable and accurate data required to assess police performance and behaviours.
The standard and even requirements for recording non-arrest interactions differed from police force to police force (and even within each force) which was addressed by the Macpherson Report following Stephen Lawrence's murder.
This report, as well as bringing "institutional racism" in to the common lexicon, brought about the introduction of published, publicly available, guidance on the extent and limitations on non-arrest questioning - what Macpherson termed non-statutory or voluntary stops - at Recommendation 61
That the Home Secretary, in consultation with Police Services, should ensure that a record is made by police officers of all "stops" and "stops and searches" made under any legislative provision (not just the Police and Criminal Evidence Act). Non-statutory or so called "voluntary" stops must also be recorded. The record to include the reason for the stop, the outcome, and the self-defined ethnic identity of the person stopped. A copy of the record shall be given to the person stopped.
That these records should be monitored and analysed by Police Services and Police Authorities, and reviewed by HMIC on inspections. The information and analysis should be published.
That Police Authorities be given the duty to undertake publicity campaigns to ensure that the public is aware of "stop and search" provisions and the right to receive a record in all circumstances.
- For completeness:
Stop and Account. This interaction is totally voluntary and failure to answer is not, in itself, cause for reasonable suspicion of any offence, so one cannot "get in to trouble" by staying silent.
The terminology varies from Force to Force, but can be summarised as:
What are you doing?
Why are you in the area?
Where are you going?
What are you carrying?
There is no legal requirement or obligation to answer any of these questions, and the police cannot lawfully detain anyone to ask them.
It does come with at least one power. According to Liberty:
Usually, under ‘stop and account’, the police officer or PCSO doesn’t have the power to force you to stay. You can’t be searched or arrested just because you refuse to answer their questions.
But there is one situation when you must answer if the police ask you for your name and address. This is when the police have reason to believe that you have engaged, or are engaging, in anti-social behaviour.
Anti-social behaviour is defined as behaviour likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress”.
In this situation it’s a criminal offence to refuse to give your name and address. You could be arrested if the police think it’s necessary to do so in order to find out your name and address.
In any case, it appears to be a procedure, with rules or guidelines attached to it. Because of that, it's useful for it to have a name - and for that name to distinguish it from other police powers or procedures (e.g. stop and search).
For easier reference, according to Wikipedia:
Stop and account
Stop and account is a standard operating procedure, rather than a power, of the police, under Recommendation 61 (Rec.61); it is not a statutory procedure like stop and search. It applies to people on foot in a public place. There is no power to force a person to stop, or to detain them. The decision to "request" a person to "stop and account" is left to the discretion of the individual officer; there is no guidance on this. Unlike stop and search, there is no requirement for "reasonable suspicion". There is no actual requirement on a police officer, beyond identifying themself as such; no need to tell the persons stopped why they are being asked to account for themselves, or to say that they are free to leave without answering questions. However, police forces have procedures governing stops. While a record must be made of every stop, there is no requirement for police forces to keep statistics on number of stops or ethnicity of people stopped, according to the College of Policing.