GOWISELY and assisting another officer with a stop and search

24 July 2019

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

A person is stopped and searched by an officer under section 1 of PACE as he is suspected of carrying a knife. The officer provides the necessary information, following the GOWISELY mnemonic. During the search, another officer arrives and is asked by the first officer to search the person's rucksack, stating that he is searching the person for a knife.

In those circumstances, does the second officer have to go through the GOWISELY information separately and form their own suspicions in order to assist with the search?

Answer:

All searches conducted under section 1 of PACE are required to comply with section 2 of PACE and the accompanying Codes of Practice (particularly Code of Practice A).

GOWISELY is a mnemonic, highlighting the information that must be provided when carrying out a stop and search. It is outlined in the College of Policing document below:

http://library.college.police.uk/docs/college-of-policing/definition-of-stop-and-search-2015.pdf

The legislation outlines that 'GOWISELY ' must be identified, prior to a search taking place but it fails to specifically cater for the circumstances where one officer takes over the conduct of a search from another – albeit we can understand that this is practically something which may arise on a regular basis.

Although we have been unable to find an example of a case where this issue has arisen specifically, an interpretation of the general case law in this area permits a view of how the court are likely to interpret such an issue and it is clear from this, that section 2 of PACE and Code of Practice A are followed strictly and usually without any leniency.

For example, the early case of R v Fennelley 1989 demonstrates that the courts are ready and willing to exclude evidence obtained as a result of a section 1 PACE search where the aforementioned requirements have not been explained adequately by the relevant officer.

Other cases of searches supporting this position are as follows:

Bonner v DPP 2004 highlighted that a failure to comply with PACE or its accompanying Codes of Practice when conducting searches means that a police officer would be acting outside the scope of the execution of their duties.

Furthermore, the case of Sobczak v DPP 2012 provides that 'section 2(2) is mandatory and requires that an officer conducting a search take reasonable steps to bring certain matters to the attention of the appropriate person, including the officer's name and station, the object of the search, and the grounds for making it'.

Additionally, in the case of R (on the application of Michaels) v Highbury Corner Magistrates Court 2009 it was stated 'however ritualistic the requirement in section 2 may appear, it had to be complied with in order for the subsequent search to be lawful'.

Returning back to your query, the responsibility to outline 'GOWISELY ' lays with each individual officer.

In support of this, we refer to the wording of section 2(2) PACE which highlights that a constable shall not perform a search until he has highlighted the relevant information (GOWISELY ).

Given that stop and search powers are an area of criticism and regularly focused on by defence solicitors as a route that may be used to exclude relevant evidence, then caution should always be exercised.

Therefore, despite the request for assistance with the search, each individual officer still has to consider and comply with sections 1, 2 of PACE, 'GOWISELY ', and the Codes of Practice. At the end of the day each individual officer is personally accountable for their own actions, and must be in a position to demonstrate that they have personally considered and complied with the all of the aforementioned matters.

To read more legislation about this subscribe to PNLD.

Back to Legal Questions