Notting Hill Carnival started in 1966 as a celebration of Caribbean culture and traditions. The crowds who attend Carnival are hugely diverse in terms of ages, ethnicities and cultures but a large percentage of attendees are people of colour. Government figures show that in England and Wales between 2017 and 2018, black people were 9 and a half times more likely to be stopped and searched as white people. This is one of the main reasons that the way police stop and searches are conducted are widely viewed as discriminatory.
At Notting Hill Carnival 2018, officers from the Metropolitan Police Service conducted 3,746 stop and searches. This year that figure is only likely to increase. Here are some tips for checking whether a stop and search encounter at Carnival is lawful.
In general, police officers must have reasonable suspicion that an individual is carrying stolen or prohibited articles, or illegal drugs, on their person or in their vehicle before they can require them to submit to a search. The suspicion cannot be based on someone’s location, appearance, ethnicity, or background alone.
Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 however gives the police the power to search any person in a defined area during a specific time period if they believe that serious violence will break out and it is necessary to use this power to prevent this happening. It is also used when there is a suspicion that individuals in a particular location may be or were carrying dangerous objects such as knives or other weapons. The fact that section 60 orders remove the need for the police to have reasonable suspicion before searching make them even more concerning than the police’s more common stop and search powers, particular when viewed in the context of fears of discrimination based stop and searches at an event celebrating Caribbean culture. Last year the police successfully applied for a section 60 order at Carnival and it is likely that they will do the same this year.
If you are stopped and searched at Carnival and a section 60 order is not in force, there is a helpful way to remember what your rights are during the search. This is known as Go Wisely:
G: Grounds for the search (a clear explanation of the officers’ grounds for suspicion)
O: Object the officer is searching for (a clear explanation of the items the officer is looking for)
W: Warrant (if the officer is not in uniform, or if you request it)
I: Identification (the officer’s name and number)
S: Station to which the officer is attached to
E: Entitlement to copies of all paperwork (not necessarily immediately)
L: Legislation, the legal power which gives the officer the right to stop and search
Y: YOU are being detained for the search (they should tell you this before they begin searching you)
If an officer fails to follow GO WISLEY, it may result in the search being unlawful. It is important that you, as a citizen, know your rights and the limitations to police powers when relating to stop and search. If you are concerned that you were unlawfully stopped and searched at Carnival (or at any other time), please contact our Actions Against the Police team to see if we can assist you with a complaint or civil claim for compensation.
Co-written by Eva Roszykiewicz (solicitor) and Natalie Acheampong (paralegal)