What is stop and account?

What is stop and account?

You may have heard of the term ‘stop and search’ before, however if a police officer or police community support officer stops and asks you questions about who you are and what you are doing, this is different and is called ‘stop and account’.

How do I know the difference?

It can be easy to confuse ‘stop and account’ and ‘stop and search’ however the distinction is key as the police have greater powers under the latter. Therefore, to ascertain whether a stop and search is underway you can ask the officer if you are being detained. You can only be detained if a full stop and search is taking place. Thus, if the answer is no, this is a ‘stop and account’ and you are free to leave and do not have to answer any questions.

What can the police ask me during a stop and account?

A police officer may ask you:

  • What is your name?
  • What are you doing in this area?
  • Where are you going?
  • Where do you live?
  • What are you carrying?

An officer cannot stop you in an attempt to find grounds to escalate the stop into a full search.

Additionally, if an officer is not in uniform and stops you, they must show you their warrant card as proof of their ID.

Do I have to answer police questions in a ‘stop and account’?

You do not have to answer these questions and have the right to walk away. The police cannot force you to stay with them and answer any questions or arrest you for not answering unless they believe you are acting antisocially – please note, anti-social behaviour is described as behaviour which is likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress”.

We at Saunders Law have an experienced Actions Against the Police Team. You can contact our solicitors for independent legal advice via our website or on 020 7632 4300


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