Powers & Rights


This activity looks at the powers of the police and the challenges of balancing legal powers with individual rights.


On completion PSYV's will:

  • Understand more about police powers

  • Learn about the challenges of making sure powers don't infringe individual rights


Group room or classroom


4 to 8 x 30 minute blocks.


Activity 1: Starter

Using a flip chart and post-it notes make a list of police powers that the group are aware of.

List any events or occasions where group members think it may be possible for police to abuse their powers. E.g. you could refer to the Stephen Lawrence case. Stephen was murdered in a racist attack in 1993 his brother was interviewed on the news in 2013 saying he's been stopped and searched 25 times by police because of his skin colour.

Discuss these questions:

  • How can police officers make sure they are fair and equal in applying the law?

  • What issues might they find difficult to judge if they were police officers? (e.g. they might belong to a particular religion, or be lenient towards people they have more sympathy for)

Activity 2: Quiz

Start by seeing if the group can answer these true or false questions:

  1. The Police do not need your consent to stop and search you if you are suspected of committing a crime by carrying items illegally (True, but you can also be searched with your permission 'consensual search')

  2. While you are being searched you are considered to be under arrest. (False, you are not under arrest but you may need to stay with the officer until they have completed the search)

  3. If you refuse to give your permission to a consensual search, the police have the right to use this as a reason for carrying out a statutory search (False, you have a right to refuse a consensual search)

  4. Someone aged 13-15 can have sex with someone aged 13-15 if they both consent (False, any person who attempts to or has sex with any young person under the age of consent (16) is committing an offence)

  5. Consensual searching has ended in Scotland (False, a code of conduct is being developed first. When it is in place the consensual stop and search will be brought to an end. Until then it may still be used if there are sufficient grounds to do so)

  6. The Police are not allowed to ask you and your friends to move on if you are in the street, park or public place (False, they can if there has been a complaint or they have witnessed behaviour that might generate a complaint)

  7. If you are asked to go to the police station, it means you are being arrested (It would only be true if there was sufficient evidence that you have committed a more serious crime or offence or it is necessary to prevent further offending. It's also possible that you are being asked to attend on a voluntary basis, or detention - where the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that you have committed a crime or offence punishable by imprisonment and you can be detained for up to 12 hours to carry out further inquiries.

  8. At age 8 you can be found guilty of a criminal offence and referred to the Children's Reporter (True, the Children's Reporter will then decide whether there are grounds for concern)

  9. You can go into a bar at age 14 (True, as long as you are accompanied by an adult, the owner doesn't object and you don't drink alcohol)

  10. You can be sent to an adult prison at the age of 18 (False, you can be sent to an adult prison at the age of 21)

Activity 3: Stop & Search

Watch the video on stop and search.

Split a flip-chart sheet into two sections. On the left write 'Polce can...' and on the right write 'Police can't'

Invite PSYV's to come up and fill out both sections.

Discuss how they feel about stop and search:

  • Is it a good idea?

  • What crimes would it prevent?

  • How does it infringe people's rights?

  • What would life be like if the police didn't have the power to stop and search?

  • Now that they know more about stop and search, what would they do if they were stopped?

  • What advice would they give to their friends about stop and search?

  • Do they think that schools should teach more young people about their rights?

Remember: there are no right and wrong answers and you should make group members that the way police are required to deal with crime is always under review as we seek to make communities safer in Scotland.

Activity 4: Scenarios

Discuss whether police powers have been used lawfully or unlawfully in these scenarios. You can do this by splitting into small groups and giving a different scenario to each group.

Scenario 1: Kamil, an Asian boy living in Govanhill was walking to school with his friend when he was stopped and searched for wearing a hoodie. His friend was also wearing a hoodie but was not searched.

Scenario 2: A man in his 60's in Alloa was shouting at two boys going down the road 'stop them! They've stolen my TV.' The boys carrying a TV kept running. Two police officers ran after them and stopped them.

Scenario 3: A man in a shopping centre was acting suspiciously. He was in a store opening and closing his bag but didn't go to the checkout to buy anything or try anything on. The security guard alerted the police and the police stopped the man as he left the store to search him.

Scenario 4: The police had heard on their radios that there were reports of fighting in a nearby park. As they approached the park they saw young males and a female walking down the road shouting. The police stopped them and asked them if they could search their clothing.

Scenario 5: The police have heard reports of a house suspected of drug dealing. From a distance police see a young woman pushing a baby in a buggy leaving the house. They decide to stop her and ask to search her and the buggy.

Activity 5: Debate

Set up a debate on the topic: Consensual Stop & Search Prevents Crime

One team of 3 will give reasons for and another team of 3 will give reasons against. One person will chair the debate. Each person will have 3 to 5 minutes to present their case. The rest of the group will vote for the team with the most convincing argument.

Follow Up

You can follow up by role playing different scenarios with different people taking on the role of police and the role of the public. Discuss what it feels like in different roles.

This activity by Red Cross looks at the Stephen Lawrence story in connection with what we the public can do in situations where someone is seriously injured.

You may want to follow up by discussing (or debating) the rights and wrongs of this case reported by the BBC in England with the headline 'Teenage Girl Arrested At School'. Remember the laws are applied differently in Scotland. Nevertheless it's still a useful case to examine from different roles and perspectives (e.g. the accused, the accused's parents, the teachers, the police, the victim etc.)


Once you have delivered this session, complete this review.

#AllTopics #Nonaccredited