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What are section 60 stop and search powers?

Stock image: blue lights on a marked police car
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Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives police officers in uniform the authority to stop and search any person or vehicle within a specified area for a weapon in order to prevent serious violence.

This does not mean people will be stopped indiscriminately and officers will still follow usual stop and search processes including:

  • explaining why a person has been stopped
  • recording the interaction on body worn video
  • offering a receipt to the person who has been stopped

Officers have also been authorised to ask people to remove face coverings if they’re reasonably believed to be worn to conceal their identity. It’s an offence to refuse and could lead to arrest.

In Avon and Somerset officers can only be deployed in this way after completing refresher training on these powers and each team briefing will be shown a video explaining why we have taken this unusual step.

The use of this power can be authorised by a police inspector only when they reasonably believe:

  • that serious violence has happened or may happen in an area
  • knives or other weapons that may be used in serious violence are being carried in that area
  • that this will allow officers to find such weapons.

The authorisation can last for up to 24 hours, after which it may be extended for a further 24 hours by a superintendent.

Our decision to use these powers and searches carried out under this authority will be reviewed by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s independent Scrutiny of Police Powers Panel, who can also check and test how such searches have been carried out.

This is not a decision which has been taken lightly. We have spoken with community leaders and have their support for this action which aims to prevent further harm from knife violence.