BLACK people were twice as likely to be searched by police than whites, the latest figures suggest, while Gypsy travellers were up to five times more likely to be searched than the general population.

Respected researchers Professor Susan McVie and Dr Kath Murray, from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR), recommended efforts must be made to “avoid unconscious bias in the searching of non-white groups in Scottish society” as figures appeared to show “some ethnic disparity” in police seizures.

The researchers also found a persistent “lack of fairness and effectiveness” in searches of teenagers, who are still more likely to be searched but less likely to be carrying anything.

There is also evidence that searches of children tend to be “concentrated within areas of higher deprivation,” the report claims.

The Herald:

The figures, which date from 2016, were produced before the introduction of Police Scotland’s new Code of Conduct, which saw 17,000 officers retrained in new stop and search practices following criticism from opposition politicians about the “industrial scale” of use in the past.

Superintendent Andy McKay said the force had been working to “improve” stop and search amid a recognition it is a significant intrusion into the “personal liberty and privacy” of the public. He added: “Police Scotland is committed to ensuring all stop and search activity is carried out in a lawful, proportionate, justifiable and accountable manner.”

The SCCJR report, commissioned by Police Scotland, found that: “In 2016, rates of seizure [of illegal contrabrand] were highest for white people, but were fairly similar to those for black/African and ‘other’ ethnic minority groups.

“Rates of seizure for Asian or Indian people were much lower, probably reflecting different drinking habits for young people from Muslim and Hindu backgrounds.

“Rates of search were lowest for white people and those from Asian/Indian backgrounds, whereas they were about double that for people from black/African backgrounds and they were four to five times higher for those from ‘other ethnic groups’.

“Rates seem to be particularly high amongst people from the Gypsy traveller community.”

The report added: “There is some ethnic disparity in the outcome of searches.

“Compared to white people, searches of black/African/Caribbean backgrounds are slightly less likely to result in a positive outcome, and searches of ‘other ethnic groups’ and those who refuse to disclose their ethnicity are substantially less likely to result in a positive outcome.

“While we have no information on those who ‘refused to say’ their ethnicity, it looks likely this group were predominantly from other ethnic groups and may have felt they were targeted as a result of their ethnicity.

“It will be important to monitor the impact of ethnicity on outcome to ensure all efforts are made to avoid unconscious bias in the searching of non-white groups in Scottish society.”

The Herald:

The academics emphasised a caveat that the number of searches on minorities had been very small – there were 3,700 searches or seizures on black and ethnic minorities last year – and therefore open to “a much greater degree of error" than the general population.

Additionally, the study was unable to identify when multiple searches had taken place which may also drive up the figures.

Greater Glasgow remains a hotspot for stop and searches, registering twice the number than the next nearest police division area.

A positive stop and search is when an item is recovered where possession implies criminality or potentially compromises safety.

The report said: “Searches involving people aged under 16 were far less likely to result in a positive outcome compared to those aged 16-20, while searches of older people (aged 21 to 45) were significantly more likely to result in a positive outcome.

“This suggests that there is still some inconsistency in the use of searches by age, which may indicate lack of fairness and effectiveness.”

A code of practice for stop and search was introduced in May following an outcry over “consensual” searches of under 12s and disproportionate searches on teenagers.

Human rights organisation Amnesty said the figures indicate “a disturbing trend” of minorities being “disproportionately affected by police use of stop and search”.

Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland programme director, said: “We have previously expressed serious concerns regarding police powers to stop and search people without suspicion of any wrongdoing.

“Using these powers in a discriminatory manner is a clear violation people’s right to privacy.

“Dr Murray’s report does appear to identify a disturbing trend of people from either black and ethnic minority backgrounds or Scottish Gypsy Travellers being disproportionately affected by police use of stop and search.

“There needs to be more robust and transparent oversight into how this is being carried out in Scotland to ensure there is no unconscious bias when police use stop and search powers.”

The report will be presented to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Policing Committee in Glasgow today.