Explosion of Mandatory Police Searches on British Citizens


By Mick Meaney – RINF |

Last weekend Lancashire police and the Lancashire County Council’s Safer Travel Unit began stop and search procedures on members of the public travelling to and from Lancaster bus station.

The ‘Gateway Check’ consisted of 2 airport style metal detectors, handheld metal detectors and frisking travellers as they left the station.

When questioned about the operation, one officer stated: “Due to recent anti social behaviour and knife crime on buses we are trialling this method as an attempt to deter knife crime, we are currently randomly searching every fifth person,” the officer did not have anymore information.

In total around 30 police officers descended on Lancaster bus station to carry out unwarranted searches on members of the public.

Speaking to RINF, one member of the public who had witnessed the searches said: “My initial thought on coming into the bus station was that something major had happened, my jaw hit the floor. I travel by bus at least twice a day and I have never seen any anti-social behaviour.

“I am alarmed at these measures, I think it’s horrible and will be checking my rights because I catch the bus so often. I’m not afraid to stand up to the police and I had to compose myself before I asked a police officer why people were being searched. It makes me so angry. What are they doing to my home town?”

On further investigation of what is classified as “anti-social behaviour” Lancaster police & Lancashire County Council’s Safer Travel Unit told us:

  • litter
  • smoking
  • shouting
  • fare evasion
  • any criminal act
  • persons wanted on warrant
  • music from mobile devices
  • placing feet on seats
  • bullying
  • throwing missiles

Rick Wilson, Lancashire County Council’s Safer Travel Unit manager, said: “The work of the Safer Travel Unit is all about helping people to feel safe and happy when they are on public transport — and that includes school pupils too.

“The checks aim to deter and detect crime, vandalism, graffiti and anti-social behaviour on buses and have made significant improvements to the safety and security of the bus network.

“When anti-social or criminal behaviour on buses is reported to the Police and the Safer Travel Unit, we have a duty to work together to resolve the problems being caused. Acts such as causing damage, smoking, swearing, shouting, fighting, playing loud music and banging on windows – things that make responsible passengers feel unsafe – will not be tolerated.’”

According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, the police can stop and search any person, vehicle, and anything in or on the vehicle for certain items. However, before they stop and search they must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that they will find:

  • stolen goods, or
  • drugs, or
  • an offensive weapon, or
  • any article made or adapted for use in certain offences, for example a burglary or theft, or
  • knives, or
  • items which could damage or destroy property, for example spray paint cans.

There is an exception to this rule. If a serious violent incident has taken place, the police can stop and search you without having reasonable grounds for suspecting they will find the items.

The police can also search a football coach going to or from a football match if they have reasonable grounds for suspecting there is alcohol on board or that someone is drunk on the coach.

When the police stop to search you, they must provide you with the following information or the search can’t begin:

  • proof of their warrant card
  • information on police powers to stop and search
  • your rights
  • the police officer’s name and police station
  • the reason for the search
  • what they think they might find when they search you
  • a copy of the search record.

In all of these situations where the police have a right to stop and search, they should not require you to take off any clothing other than an outer coat, jacket or gloves. The police can do a more thorough search in private, for example, in a police van. The search must be made by a police officer of the same sex.
If you are arrested, the police can search you for anything you might use to help you escape or for evidence relating to the offence that has led to your arrest.

In some circumstances a police officer of the rank of inspector or above can give the police permission to make stops and searches in an area for a certain amount of time – as long as this is for no more than 24 hours. When this permission is in force the police can search for offensive weapons or dangerous instruments whether or not they have grounds for suspecting that people are carrying these items. An officer with the rank of assistant chief constable or above, can also give permission for searches in an area in order to prevent acts of terrorism.

The desire to stop and search citizens is nothing new but it has been increasing dramatically over recent years.

In 2006 after a 3 month trial on the London Underground, Alistair Darling gave the go-ahead for nation wide roll out of weapon scanners at major train stations.

Sniffer dogs have also been used for “weapon” detection.

Later in the same year police began using biometric scanning systems on members of the public at shopping centres, pubs, nightclubs and took swabs from citizens to see if they had been in contact with narcotics or explosives.

This month police began using a metal detector and sniffer dogs on an unprecedented scale.

During an operation at a pub in Wellingborough they did not find any weapons but made several arrests for small amounts of drugs; a few wraps of cocaine, a small number of ecstasy pills and small amounts of cannabis. Sergeant Tom Griffin said: “This is a piece of equipment that has been made newly available to us, and we can put it up anywhere we wish, such as at events and venues.”

Nobody was arrested for supplying and all narcotics found where for personal use.

The motives of the police have to be questioned. All official word from the police claim they are looking for weapons but seem to be focusing more on looking for small amounts substances used for recreational purposes.

Last week officers in Wales also made 5 arrests for possession of drugs while using a metal detector at a train station. Again no weapons arrests were made.

Ipswich police also targeted night clubs with metal detectors and an Ion Track machine for taking swabs from members of the public. Small amounts of cannabis, cocaine and heroin were found during the operation, but no weapons.

The Ion Track machine can detect the equivalent of a grain of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, in seconds it can detect a trillionth of a gram. The results cannot be used as evidence but they can lead officers to perform searches.

The machine can also be used covertly by taking swabs from areas such as toilet cubicles.

In Accrington Sergeant Ian Corbett, who led the aptly named ‘Operation Shepherd’ said: “The detector is a new piece of kit which can be deployed anywhere and at short notice.”

A mass increase of nation wide surveillance has been on the agenda for years, in 2007 leaked Home Office documents showed plans for x-ray cameras that see through clothes being built into UK lamp posts.

The European Union is pushing for these 3D virtual strip search cameras to be placed at airports by 2010. Germany strongly opposed the plans along with Gareth Crossman of British human rights organisation Liberty.

Mr Crossman, the director of policy at Liberty, said: “I don’t think people are aware of what these scanners can do and how demeaning it is to have your body on display. Heathrow was right to discontinue their use and they should not be used in Britain except as an alternative to strip searches.”

Also from 2010, all police forces will have mobile biometric fingerprint readers that have instant access to the Ident1 biometric database which contains around 7.5 million prints.

Geoff Whitaker of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) said other biometrics such as facial scans could be added later.

  • ZingPao

    Time for revoltion!!

  • ZingPao

    And spelling lessons!

  • Maximus V

    Pehapse it is time to take another look at that email I sent about RINF reporters on the ground?

    RE: RINF Alternative Newsletter – Idea for consideration.‏
    From: (Name and email address edited for security reasons)
    Sent: 22 October 2008 10:56:51
    To: xxxx

    The open format is great, 10/10 from me. The problem comes when and if a scenario such as a cop stop or official event is to be reported from live.

    The first thing the cops or security ask is: if you are press, were is your press ID etc?

    So, for all those on the forum who intend to do original investigative journalism and post that on RINF, on top of sending pre published material, there could be the issue of live reporting and the consiquences of that live reporting if things start ot get a bit fruity (harrasment, arrest for impersanating press, etc).

    What about allowing all those who post and want to report live on the developing police state to have the option to pay a nominal subscription to obtain a RINF Correspondent’s badge (open to all with an interest & easily affordable) so they can go to any public meeting, cop stop or even public riot, etc, and report the police harassment with the cover of being official press.

    If the card just said something like PRESS (Rinf Correspondent) with their details etc, then they could not be harassed as much and if they started to take photos etc, etc, they would be far less likely to have cameras confiscated etc etc.

    Indeed, over time you could build up a world wide network of card carrying RINF correspondents all of equal value and without any faveroutism, or any particular title or such, whilst also giving them the Press credentials to ask the difficult questions and report what is going on in their area.

    Also, if any particular Correspondet was in fact abusing their press status the card could be easily revoked and Rinf would not be liable for any of their actions etc and publically denounce them on rinf itself to cover the outlet.

    I speak from experience, the last cop stop I did my car was searched and I was given the once over just for asking the police perfectly civilised questions about their real motives. – notice we have not seen any more of those cop stops since locally, seeing as someone was prepared to expose the stops for what they really were – harrasment.

    As this Credit Crunch begins to bite I suspect things may get a little fruity out on the streets, so have a think about this idea and let me know what you think.

    (Signature edited for security)

  • Mick Meaney

    Just removed my email address from there (spam bots will love it). I like the idea but the best thing to do is apply for a NUJ card, has a lot more weight.

  • Maximus V

    Let me help you do the thinking chaps – that is what Im good at.

  • Maximus V

    To date as of 28th October 2008, I have not had a reply to the above Email.

    Is Rinf Too buisy calling the truth movement?

    First the Truth movement were called "CULT" and now they are called "NAZIS".

    Its time to put to one side minor differences of emfasis in methods of investigating Evidence and find a way to Unite to see off the attack on our Denocratic freedomes.

    If we do not address this stop a harrasment program soon, you can bet it will become the norm, because public reaction to it is certainly being analised.

    We need to focus on the key problem, which is to show the public who is the real Fascist danger, not just throw the baby out with the bath water just because some individuals have infultrated the truth movement to undermine its foundation.

    If the likes of the BNP write how good you work is via their poisoned literature – it should not be the kiss of instant death – that is how they opperate.

    Judge people on what they say and do – not just on what they say, everybody has off days were errors of judgement are made.

    We need to forgive those who do make minor errors of judgement so that we can unite and defend our homes and families.

  • Maximus V

    I went to the bus station and spoke to a supervisor and he stated there had not been one single incident involving a knife in the whole time he had been a Supervisor for over 5 years.

    I asked 3 bus drivers if they had any knife related problems what so ever and every one of them said they could not understand why the police harassed the travelling public.

    I was supplied with the details of whom to make contact re any freedom of information requests or complaints and it is:

    To A.O.M

    Stagecoach Lancaster


    White Lund


    Thanks for the info about press badges, if things do become increasingly hostile to the general public then its down to you at RINF to call me, you know who I am and what I do – I have plenty of work on my hands and do not need to look for it.

    My advice is lets get it on, pass the idea about and refine it. Then lets see some action as opposed to just talking about it.

    RINF press badges please!

  • Cleef

    Just on the grounds of a strip search, a police van is not a suitable private place for a search to be conducted.

  • Maximus V

    Sure its not, that’s the intention bro.

    What I would advise is do what I do at cop stops, be assertive but polite and state that although you are willing to cooperate fully, you strongly object and you regard this unnecessary police harassment as a direct attack upon our Democratic system and it clearly undermines a person’s right to go unmolested by authority.

    What I do is stay there with my camera documenting everything and report everything that goes on. I then ask those who have been harassed if they disliked the new fascist police state and were they happy with the new heavy handed assault of civil liberties etc. etc.

    I push the situation right up to the point they want to arrest me then pull back, then go in again and then pull back and so on like a Rockweiler munching a bone.

    Only to do it without being arrested you do need a press pass.

  • I agree with Maximus V about getting press ID. It would help cirizen reporters, those of us who wish to report wrong doing by the authorities. It is not only the police stopping us at rail stations, private security guards increasing abuse their powers.

  • Mick Meaney

    Max I get over 1000 emails a day (mostly spam) sorry if I missed one of yours, if you PM me on the forum I will always answer (no spam there). I think I mentioned that in an email to you last week.

    If enough people want RINF press cards they can have them, it does cost a bit to make them (over a fiver each) so I'll do it if the demand is there.

  • Maximus V

    You chaps are doing OK bro, no problemmo.

    Have you people got skype phones yet, I put 3 in this week (as easy as installing a printer) and they were only £2 each from CPC Preston.

    They are good for SMS, and would be a very good tool for all your team to have. Even Cult Watch would benefit too.

    I give my Skype phone 10/10.

  • Louise

    [quote post="4764"]I went to the bus station and spoke to a supervisor and he stated there had not been one single incident involving a knife in the whole time he had been a Supervisor for over 5 years.[/quote]

    The Supervisior obviously can't remember this incident http://www.lancasterguardian.co.uk/lancasternews/… (Incident took place 22 Nov 2007).

    So, apparently there has been one incident. One.

    Does this justify the 'stop and searches'??

  • Maximus V

    Has anybody actually been stabbed? EVER?

    And I hardly call a 3inch pocket knife a serious weapon. Notice how the article does not show the pathetic weapon?

    Notice how they were not prosecuted for an offensive weapon?

    Does this justify the ’stop and searches’??

    Well, how many people die from stabbing as opposed to other causes of death?

    Well, that answers that I suppose, but hey, I am open minded and can be convinced by a good argument for introducing a fascist state apparatus.

  • Maximus V


    There have been no further bullshit stop and search fiascos like this in the Lancaster Area since this one and the cops have been warned they are being very closely watched.

    I challanged the top cop at a recent public meeting in Morcambe town hall and they were told that we are on to them in no uncertain terms.

    If anyone knows of, witnesses anything like this occuring in the Lancaster/Morcambe area of England, then put it on RINF ASAP and we will go and sort the bastards out.

    This sort of public harrasment is simply not on!

    We will not put up with this bullshit sliding FASCISM and these bastards will know so in no uncertain terms.

    And for the record:

    Both 911 & 7/7 were inside jobs – the Lancaster police know it, we know it, we know they know, they know that we know that they know!