Our data story from this March, PSNI urged to reconsider use of stop and search on under-18s by Cormac Campbell, looked at PSNI stop and search data from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2016 where the person stopped was not arrested, to investigate the use of stop and search powers on under 18s.
That Detail Data investigation found that during this five-year period, of 149,746 stop and search operations that didn't result in an arrest, 23,323 (15.6%) were conducted on under-18s - including 59 incidents involving children aged 10 and under. Most of these did not result in any further police action.
The arrest rate for people of all ages stopped is 6.9%. The detail of the 10,306 stop-and-search arrests were not included in the data provided by the police in order to protect ongoing investigations.
Stop and search powers allow police to detain members of the public using a range of legislation aimed at combating crime, such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Order (PACE), the Misuse of Drugs Act, the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007, and the Terrorism Act 2000 (TACT).
The Police Ombudsman’s Office, which has received 370 complaints relating to the overall use of stop and search over the last five years, has launched an initiative since the original article was written to address the concerns of young people which it says are regularly raised.
In response to the original article the NI Children and Young People Commissioner (Koulla Yiasouma) said that "the return rate is woefully inadequate" and called for greater transparency on the use of the powers. Include Youth said that the figures raise important issues about the effect on young people who feel they are being targeted for searches, often for no apparent reason.
Queen’s University criminology lecturer Dr John Topping said the figures suggest that young people are disproportionately the focus of stop and search operations:
“When we dig further into the figures in relation to the number of young people and particularly 15-17 year olds, they represent about approximately 4% of the NI population but about 11% of the stops and searches,” he said.
The Police Service has produced an update for 2016-2017, providing the non-arrest stop and search dataset via a Freedom of Information request to Detail Data.
Statistics on the PSNI website show that between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017:
- there were 31,274 incidents in the last financial year in which a person was stopped and searched, or stopped and questioned, by police. This was 2,900 fewer than 2015-16 but 3,735 more than 2014-15.
- 1,944 of these led to arrest, a rate of 6.2% (lower than 7% for the previous year and 8% in 2014-15).
- 3,656 (12%) of all of those stopped were aged under 18. This is lower than the three-year period 2013-16 (for which we have age breakdowns of all stop and searches) when 15.6% of all people stopped were under 18.
In addition to these published figures, the dataset provided to us shows that of the 29,330 people stopped with no resulting arrest in 2016-17, 3,483 (8.4%) were aged under 18 - 88% of whom were male. Of all those stopped without arrest, 45.7% are young males under the age of 25.
2. This week PSNI provided, under FOI, figures for 16/17. There were 3,483 incidents of non-arrest Stop and Search on U18s pic.twitter.com/8StogA153T— Cormac Campbell (@CC_TheDetail) July 26, 2017
People between the ages of 15 to 17 were represented in 1 in 10 of those stopped without arrest in 2016-17, while comprising 3.8% of the NI population. John Topping points out that this is vastly different to the situation in England and Wales:
Current NI stats show 15-17yo males stopped at rate 109 per 1000/pop vs. overall PSNI avg. 18 per 1000 & 7 per 1000 Eng/Wales @YStopUK— Dr John Topping (@drjohntopping) July 26, 2017
Though detail on the ages of those arrested is not provided in the police statistics for 2016-17, this means that 173 people aged under 18 were arrested as a result of stop and search actions in 2016-17.
For under 18s, the stop-and-search arrest rate is therefore 4.7% - lower than the rate for those of all ages (6.2%). The 2016-17 under 18 arrest rate is also than for the previous three years, which averaged at 5.3%.
Monthly data going back to April 2011 shows annual spikes in the number of non-arrest stops of under 18s in October, possibly due to suspicion of carrying fireworks. However, October 2016 shows a smaller number of stops than for previous years for the under 18 age group.
In 2016-17, property was found in 7.8% of the non-arrest stop and searches, which is a higher percentage than in previous years. The finding of non property did necessarily mean that there was no further police action. In 1,535 stops where no property was found, there was some sort of further action.
Since 2011, property has been found in a higher percentage of cases. This increase was mostly concentrated within two age groups: 18-25 year olds and 25-34 year olds.
Belfast had the highest stop and search rate (27.2 per 1000 population for all ages 2016-17). It also has the highest crime rates for the policing district, and the highest stop, search and arrest rate (9%). Ards and North Down had the lowest stop and search rate (5.6 per 1000), less than one-fifth of Belfast's (the crime rate is less than half that of Belfast). Mid & East Antrim, and Newry & Mourne saw the fewest arrests being made per stop (3.3% and 3.5% of stops).
For those stops of under-18s that did not result in arrest, 91% did not result in any further police action (where the outcome was known). The remainder resulted in actions such as 53 community resolutions, 36 reports to PPS and one penalty notice for disorder, with 234 unspecified 'other' outcomes recorded. This is more detailed than the data before April 2016, which recorded only if there was further action or not.
|Age Group||Community Resolution||No Further Police Action||Other||Penalty Notice for Disorder||Report to PPS||Unknown|
|<18||53 (1.5%)||3,100 (89%)||234 (6.7%)||1 (0%)||36 (1%)||59 (1.7%)|
|18-25||182 (1.6%)||9,814 (85.3%)||934 (8.1%)||7 (0.1%)||267 (2.3%)||297 (2.6%)|
|26-35||39 (0.6%)||6,282 (89.6%)||385 (5.5%)||5 (0.1%)||128 (1.8%)||175 (2.5%)|
|36-45||11 (0.3%)||3,327 (91.3%)||141 (3.9%)||3 (0.1%)||50 (1.4%)||111 (3%)|
|46-55||6 (0.3%)||2,106 (93.9%)||47 (2.1%)||0||14 (0.6%)||70 (3.1%)|
|56-65||1 (0.2%)||606 (95.6%)||15 (2.4%)||0||4 (0.6%)||8 (1.3%)|
|over 65||2 (1.1%)||168 (94.4%)||4 (2.2%)||0||1 (0.6%)||3 (1.7%)|
|Unknown||6 (0.9%)||586 (92.4%)||33 (5.2%)||0||8 (1.3%)||1 (0.2%)|
|Total||300 (1%)||25,989 (88.6%)||1,793 (6.1%)||16 (0.1%)||508 (1.7%)||724 (2.5%)|
Photo credit: Chris White (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)