Laser misuse and searching

08 January 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

An officer is called to an incident of youths shining a laser pen into the eyes of drivers at the side of the road, is there a power to search for this item?

Answer: 

Although it is an offence under section 1 of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act 2018 to shine or direct a laser beam towards a vehicle, there is no power to stop and search.

When faced with the situation mentioned, the only option would be to arrest for such offence to subsequently carry out a search, providing the necessity criteria is met.

For an officer to effect a lawful arrest, the following two requirements must be present:

a person's involvement or suspected involvement or attempted involvement in the elements of a criminal offence; and

reasonable grounds for believing that the person's arrest is necessary.

The necessity grounds to justify an arrest are outlined by paragraph 2.9 of PACE Code of Practice G. Included within the grounds are the following sections which are relevant to this query -

'2.9(e) To allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question …
Examples of such actions include: …
(iv) when considering arrest in connection with any offence and it is necessary to search, examine or photograph the person to obtain evidence.'

Therefore, it is possible for an officer to carry out an arrest if it is necessary to search a person for evidence of an offence. However, please see Note 2H which states that this necessity criteria does not allow for routine or speculative searching.

If information then comes to light to indicate the suspect is not responsible for the offence for which they were arrested or the grounds of arrest otherwise cease to exist i.e. the search does not produce a laser, the suspect could then be de-arrested.

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