PSNI stop-and-searches to stop?

A BBC report is predicting that

The PSNI is to suspend the use of the powers which allowed them to search people suspected of being involved in terrorist activity.

It follows the recent European Court rejection of the UK government’s appeal against a January 2010 ruling that section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 violated the right to respect for private life.

I’ve already noted the massive increase here in the numbers of stop-and-searches taking place between 2005 to 2009.

But would such a change in policy make life more difficult for Chief Constable Matt Baggott…

Adds From the updated BBC report

A PSNI spokesperson said that stop and search “remains an essential tool in countering the terrorist threat”.

“We use stop and search powers differently in Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK both in terms of the proximity of the threat that we face and degree of targeted use that we make of them,” the spokesperson said.

“We will continue to utilise available legislation in protection of the public and will do so in cooperation and consultation with the community we serve.”

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  • Pete Baker

    Adds From the updated BBC report

    A PSNI spokesperson said that stop and search “remains an essential tool in countering the terrorist threat”.

    “We use stop and search powers differently in Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK both in terms of the proximity of the threat that we face and degree of targeted use that we make of them,” the spokesperson said.

    “We will continue to utilise available legislation in protection of the public and will do so in cooperation and consultation with the community we serve.”

  • Bubbler

    Notice how they are only suspending/amending Section 44 – this is only one section of one piece of legislation available to the PSNI. This doesn’t take into account Section 43, which allows a constable to stop someone if he/she has reasonable suspicion that they may be a terrorist, or the entire Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act of 2007, which gives the PSNI powers above and beyond those available to other UK forces.

    Home Secretary Theresa May is now saying that authorisation will only be given in a situation where Section 44 is necessary, rather than expedient, to prevent terrorism, and only to search vehicles.

    I would assume then that it is still individual officers who decide necessary, or ‘reasonable suspicion?’

    I don’t think this is as major of a move as it appears to be from the outset. We need to read the fine print.

  • wj

    The following appeared on http://www.troopsoutmovement.com/latestnews.htm

    The above used to be a solely SF site, I wonder what has changed as they carry now eirigi statements on a frequent basis.

    éirígí warn of rise in equally abhorrent powers after Section 44 suspension
    08/07/10

    éirígí general secretary Breandán MacCionnaith has warned that the announcement that stop and search powers under Section 44 of the British government’s ‘Terrorism Act’ are to be suspended will not mean any decrease in the use of draconian legislation by the PSNI.

    MacCionnaith said: “As so often has been the case in the Six Counties, the British government continues to maintain a varied range of repressive legislation on the statute books which it can use at will. That is also the case in respect of this so-called suspension – Section 44 will merely be replaced by Sections 21 and 24 of the Justice and Security Act 2007.

    MacCionnaith continued: “In the first three months of this year, the PSNI made use of powers under Sections 21 and 24 of the Justice and Security Act 2007 to stop, question and search individuals on over 2,000 occasions.

    “The Justice and Security Act applies solely and exclusively to the Six Counties. Indeed, the powers available to the PSNI under the Justice and Security Act are undeniably far more wide-ranging than those available under the discredited Section 44 which the European Court ruled in January to be “unlawful”.

    “It should be noted that, in September last year, the then Acting Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI stated that ‘Section 21 of the 2007 Act is extremely useful, in particular because no reasonable grounds are required for it to be exercised’. Those comments alone illustrate the completely arbitrary and rights’ abusive nature of the Justice and Security Act.

    “That such an outrageous statement could be placed on the public record should be a matter of apprehension and great unease to any individual or organisation with an interest in defending and protecting human and civil rights.

    “There can be doubt that the coming months will see a tremendous upsurge in the use of Sections 21 and 24 of the Justice and Security Act.”

    MacCionnaith added: “We in éirígí will be urging domestic and international human rights organisations to closely examine the use and validity of this equally abhorrent legislation with a view to initiating test cases challenging the compatibility of these powers with established European human rights case-law.

    “éirígi was one of the very few organisations prepared to consistently challenge the use of Section 44 powers in the Six Counties. We have also previously highlighted the draconian nature of the equally objectionable Justice and Security Act and, as a party, we will continue to mount strenuous opposition to its use.”