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Police use Stop & Search powers unlawfully – says Home Office

Police use Stop & Search powers unlawfully – says Home Office

Categories: Latest News

Thursday June 10 2010

The Home Office has revealed that ‘tens of thousands’ of people across the UK have been stopped and searched illegally under the controversial section 44 of the Terrorism Act (2000) which allows police to stop and search someone without suspicion that an offence has occurred.

An investigation, triggered after a freedom of information request, found that 14 police forces ‘had unlawfully used their counter-terror stop and search powers in 40 different operations.’

The Guardian reports:

‘The disclosure is another major blow to the police use of section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, under which anyone can be stopped in a specific area without any need for suspicion that an offence is being committed.

‘The powers were used to stop 148,798 people last year and have been used repeatedly against peace protesters and photographers.

In a landmark judgment in January the European court of human rights ruled that the blanket use of section 44 across the whole of London was unlawful. It criticised the lack of legal safeguards against abuse in the way the operations were authorised.’

The Security Minister, Baroness Neville-Jones, today expressed her concern on the discovery and said the government is ‘committed to undertaking a review of counter-terrorism legislation which will include the use of stop and search powers in section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.’

The arbitrary and ill-defined nature of section 44 has served to undermine public trust in the police and does little to protect the public from terrorism. Members of the public, particularly photographers and tourists, have previously complained of harassment and called for the law to be repealed. In spite of this and the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling earlier this year that decreed section 44 as illegal and in contravention with the right to private and family life, the law has remained in place, waiting to be amended by parliament.

You can find out your rights under section 44 here and urge the government to comply with European human rights regulations without delay by writing to:

Home Office,
2 Marsham Street,
London,
SW1P 4DF

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