“Lord Carlile, the official reviewer of terrorism laws, said today a change in the law was needed”

The Guardian reports on a “ruling today by the European court of human rights against the unlawful police use of ­counter-terrorism stop and search powers” under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000

The sheer scale of the stop and searches has made clear that these counter-terrorism powers – under which police are supposed to be searching for “articles that could be used in connection with terrorism” – have become another tactic in daily police encounters with the public, regardless of whether people are tourists taking photographs or peace protesters outside an arms fair.

Use of the powers has quadrupled since they were used to throw Walter Wolfgang out of the Labour party conference for heckling Jack Straw in 2005. Last year the Met tried to restrict the use of section 44 to certain areas, for example near parliament. But that move goes nowhere near complying with this judgment.

Lord Carlile, the official reviewer of terrorism laws, said today a change in the law was needed, including clarification that the searches had to be “necessary” rather than just “expedient”. He also thought chief constables would have to give much closer consideration to the granting of authorisation to use the powers.

Will that have an impact on the increasing number of stop-and-searches taking place here?

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  • Banjaxed

    ‘Will that have an impact on the increasing number of stop-and-searches taking place here’?

    Chance would be a fine thing, Pete!

    Has the British Government not been using this little patch for years, testing out one piece of dubious anti-terrorism legislation after another? Mind you, this particular administration has been worse than most, especially in Britain itself, with its sorry list of failed right-wing zealots, Home Secretaries Blunkett, Clarke, Reid and Smyth.

  • wje

    24 hours after the judgment, a statement appears on the SF website from North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA and Policing Board Member, Daithí McKay, welcoming the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

    However, as a Policing Board member Daithí seems not to be reading the all the relevant documentation he receives from the PSNI as he goes on to state:”The PSNI used the same legislation to stop hundreds of people last year”

    Hundreds? According to the PSNI’s own statistics there were 17,859 stopped and searched under section 44 from January 1st – September 30 in 2009. Not to mention another 2,567 under the Justice and Security Act. Over 20,000 stop and searches in total in nine months.

    To be fair, he also states: “Many of those stopped and harassed in a number of these cases were stopped because of their political opinion/background. This abuse of power amounts to political policing.”

    “Hundreds” is kind of understating the extent of the political policing problem, Daithí?