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Scots four times more likely to be stopped and searched by police

Research shows people in Scotland undergo procedure more than anywhere else in Britain.

Police inquiry: Gang attack man in home.

People in Scotland are still four times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than elsewhere in Britain despite a 38 per cent drop in the practice since the merger of forces, researchers have found.

Seven out of the 10 UK police divisions most likely to use stop and search were in Scotland, research from Edinburgh University's Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research found.

Divisions located in the area formerly controlled by Strathclyde Police occupied the top five places.

Those five divisions in Strathclyde accounted for 86 per cent of the national drop between 2013/14 and 2014/15 meaning the national picture may not accurately reflect police practice in other parts of Scotland, researchers said.

The Tayside area's search rate per head of population was higher than in London, and young people continued to be disproportionately targeted in some areas, the study found.

In 2014/15, the number of recorded searches on 16-year-olds in Glasgow was greater than the number of 16-year-olds in the city as a whole.

In the first year of Police Scotland's existence, the number of searches fell from just under 683,000 in the previous year to just over 640,000. In the second year, the figure dropped to just under 427,000 - a decrease of almost 40 per cent over two years.

The fall in the number of recorded searches does not appear to have led to increased levels of recorded crime, the findings show.

Researchers suggest that Scotland's high stop and search figures may be linked to a combination of performance management, weak regulation and a lack of accountability and scrutiny prior to 2013.

The report also suggests that the recent fall in stop and search is a likely result of media and political scrutiny following the Police Scotland merger.

Kath Murray, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Law, said: "The overall trends in the report are encouraging, and it is clear that Police Scotland is putting a huge amount of work into this area."

"The findings also show the scale of the challenge in relation to stop and search, and highlight ongoing regional inconsistencies in how these powers are used."

"One of the key tasks for Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Government is to put in place robust governance processes, and to ensure that stop and search, as well as other police powers, are deployed fairly and effectively."

Scottish Labour Justice spokesman Hugh Henry said: "These statistics are absolutely shocking. Tough questions need to be asked why the rate of searches in Scotland are so much higher than other parts of the UK.

"Police officers in Scotland put their personal safety and their lives on the line to keep people safe but it has become clear that there is a target driven culture in the organisation that many Scots will find alarming, and that officers may find detrimental to their jobs.

"This problem has been rumbling on for months now but the Scottish Police Authority and SNP Justice Minister Michael Matheson have barely broken cover. Where are they and what questions have they asked about these staggering figures?"

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: "These figures demonstrate the need for an evidence-based, regulated approach to stop and search.

"In particular I have concerns that these high rates could be disproportionately affecting some communities and groups, and that runs the risk of resentment building up. Young people have an equal right to live their lives without regularly having to submit to searches."

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