INNOCENT people are having their telephone numbers collected and stored by Police Scotland after being frisked under controversial stop and search powers, the Sunday Herald can reveal.


A secret memo last year authorised the single force to record telephone numbers in their national search database - even when a frisk uncovered no criminality.

Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie yesterday accused the force of being "creative with civil liberties".

Stop and search, which is chief constable Stephen House's signature crime-fighting policy, has become mired in controversy over the last twelve months.

The number of recorded searches in 2013/14, over 600,000, was proportionately far higher than in London and New York - and the tactic has even been used on toddlers and babies in Scotland.

Around three quarters of all searches in Scotland were "consensual", meaning the frisks are not rooted in law and not based on reasonable suspicion.

The volume of these non-statutory searches triggered an intervention from the First Minister and the practice is now expected to be abolished.

The Sunday Herald, however, has learned that Police Scotland has widened the types of information officers can now record after frisking individuals.

Until July last year, names and addresses were recorded, and whether a search found items such as drugs and blades.

A memo, sent by assistant chief constable Malcolm Graham, was meant to help a stop and search pilot in Fife geared around reforming many of the perceived flaws in the policy.

However, the guidance was sent to all division commanders around the country and the option of entering an individual's phone number became available to all officers nationwide.

Graham, the lead officer for Major Crime and Public Protection, wrote: "I would be grateful if the content of this memorandum could be brought to the attention of all staff and officers under your command."

The phone numbers, which are only taken if a citizen consents, include those people who have been searched on a suspicionless basis.

In England, where consensual searches were banned, personal details may only be required if a person is arrested.

A Police Scotland spokesperson initially told the Sunday Herald that phone numbers were only taken in the Fife pilot area.

The press office clarified by saying that the policy was "intended" to be for Fife, adding: "Numbers may have been recorded in other divisions if these were provided voluntarily by individuals stop searched. As the memo states the facility was set up on the National Stop Search IT application to support the 'P' Division Stop and Search pilot, where numbers were provided voluntarily, to check its effectiveness, improve transparency and seek feedback, but the recording of numbers was not mandatory."

Professor Alan Miller, the chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: "The Commission has some concerns about whether people who have been stopped and searched by the police are in a position to give informed consent to a request to provide their phone number.

"A better alternative would be to provide them with a way of getting in touch with Police Scotland, should they wish to do so. We repeat our call for the practice of non-statutory stop and search to be brought to an end immediately given that it lacks a legal framework."

Finnie said: "Unless the law has changed, and I am not aware it has, there's no obligation to give the police details of your phone.

"It is time for the law-enforcers to cease being creative with civil liberties and restrict their stop and search practices to the tried, tested and lawful ones in operation prior to the creation of target-fixated Police Scotland.

"The Parliament's Police Committee will shortly revisit the stop and search issue and this further intrusion into a citizens' privacy will certainly feature."

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes said: "Police Scotland needs to explain to what extent it has been recording the telephone numbers of those it has stopped and searched.

"Have the telephone numbers collected outwith Fife been used for any purpose? Does the national force intend for the collection of phone numbers to become standard practice or will this option be scrapped once the Fife pilot has concluded?

"Time and again it has been demonstrated that there are insufficient safeguards around the use of this controversial tactic."