Finding the balance between security and privacy…

BBC Radio Ulster’s second story on the bulletins this morning was about the Policing Board’s Human Rights Report saying that nearly 10,000 people were stopped and searched in 2008/9 – three times that of 2007/8. This is not new; that most recent figure was revealed in the Report of the Independent Reviewer of the Justice and Security Act published on January 4, which the Beeb didn’t appear to notice.

However, Pete’s note from the time reported the massive increase of late. And in the three months from July to September ALONE, there were more Section 44 searches than in the entire previous year. Obviously that coincided with the lethal increase in dissident republican activity. The question is if the police are exercising their powers properly when there are alternatives.

Section 44 has recently been ruled illegal, and unless the Government wins its appeal against the ECHR, there will be particular consequences for Northern Ireland one way or another. Perhaps there will be a change in policy towards greater use of Police and Criminal Evidence powers, which require reasonable suspicion for a search, rather than the easy way out with S44 random searches.

(UPDATE: Now that he’s woke up, Nolan is covering this on Radio Ulster now. Is Basil McCrea arguing that the ECHR ruling only applies to the Met!?)