Your rights – Police powers of ‘Stop and Search’

The police are funded by all of us, through our tax (and or donor funding, supposedly), to uphold the law and prevent crime. The Police are at the forefront of preserving society, but what happens if we find ourselves in trouble with the police?

Cops on patrol

Cops on patrol

Indeed how many of us know our rights when dealing with the police or indeed take an interest in the work the Police do? Most of us probably only give this a thought when we are in trouble with the police, or when we are victims of crime.

We must acknowledge that the police do an important job and they should be applauded for putting their lives in harm’s way so we can live in a safe society. It is also important to stress that this article is in no way aimed at putting the police in a bad light but rather to hopefully educate and inform. Not every situation can be covered in this article and if you have problems with the police, you should always seek advice from a solicitor or the Legal Aid Department.

General powers of the police

Rules about police behaviour are set down in the police code of practice, and there are also laws about some of the things the police can and can’t do. If the police act in a way which does not comply with the law or the code of practice, it may mean you could sue them, that they could be prosecuted for committing a criminal offence, or that they could be disciplined.

Stop and search – When can the police stop and search you

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 items which could damage or destroy property.

When the police stop and search you, they must explain to you what the grounds of that search is and what they think they might find when they search you. They need to identify themselves, if they’re in uniform that should be fairly straightforward to identify them. But if they’re in plain clothes then they must show you their police I.D. (warrant card) and also explain which police station they come from.

In all of these situations where the police have a right to stop and search, they should not require you to take off in public any clothing other than an outer coat, or jacket. A more thorough search or a strip search may take place in private, for example in a police van. A strip search must be made by a police officer of the same sex.

Can the police use force

The police can use reasonable force when they stop and search, but must make every effort to persuade you to co-operate. They should only use force as a last resort.

Remedies available to you following a police search

If you are stopped under the stop and search powers, you are not entitled to any damages or compensation for any loss of damage suffered in respect of the detention and of the seizure of anything found and seized unless where the police acted without reasonable cause.


Hopefully this article has shed some light on this topic. Till next time, keep well and stay on the right side of the law.

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15 thoughts on “Your rights – Police powers of ‘Stop and Search’”

  1. ama says:

    Praise God for our children who go to school to build our country and not to campaign for immoral rights
    . Keep educating us.

  2. patuma says:

    one has to also be aware that we have the presevation of public security act. find time and read that one too.

  3. ben says:

    Please educate us that are when police officers ask to see driving licence do we have to show them or physically give them as once they take the driving licence then they dont want to give it back, anf find faults

  4. cheyo the real northerner says:

    @Chomocho. You are more than dull. Why can’t you just remain quite. If you knew, you did not do wrong, why did you misbehave. Whom do you want should praise you in this media. You must be stupid.

  5. Innocent says:

    Police are not respected and honoured by govt. They are living in hurts wth there family not in houses.

  6. slade says:

    Ambiriwa ndi mbava ku police angobisalira…

  7. James kotoki says:

    Try to stop and search me,I will blow up all police stations.I am tired of these thieves called police officers

  8. Azanga this DPP government akuzuza a police kwambiri why making them standing the whole day at the roundabouts our policemen works like robots they can’t think on their own mbava mungagwire mu roundabouts that is useless security find other means of patrolling

  9. APM says:

    Could you please interplate these things in chichewa. It is likely that most of our recent police recrutes can barely understand the language . Nice column

  10. crazy stuff says:

    Can you bring an article on traffic police who are the fattest bribe thugs

  11. Maria says:

    Is it true that the police are also not allowed to take away your license if caught speeding for example and you don’t have cash on spot and that it is the duty of the courts to take away your license not the police?ozisata tithandizeni

  12. chomoncho says:

    Ine ndinayamulidwa pa ntandile. Cid malata ananditukwana za thupi langa zonse ngati si ine msinku la mache. Kundiyika mu selo ndi kundimenya ngati ndi ine mmamuna. Zoopsya Police ya ku malawi. Ayi God is good. Ndimapempela.

  13. chaiwone wawo says:

    These tips are necessary for a variety of situations Malawians find themselves in. Please Keep doing this. Citizens need to know these rights and police boundaries.

  14. mtate mike rsa says:

    U mean the laws of the dpp police and the dpp by laws leave that to the dpp and malawi police will do the job to malawians without being told

  15. benala says:

    The why our male police officers here are experts strip search on ladies.

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