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UK Stop & Search policy ruled illegal

UK Stop & Search policy ruled illegal

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday January 13 2010

Human rights group Liberty has won a landmark case against the government in challenging the arbitrary and widespread use of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows for ‘stop and search’ of private citizens by the police acting on ‘a hunch’.

Judges at the European Court of Human Rights in the case, Gillan and Quinton v the United Kingdom, ruled that:

“…the powers of authorisation and confirmation as well as those of stop and search… are neither sufficiently circumscribed nor subject to adequate legal safeguards against abuse. ….They are not therefore “in accordance with the law”.”

The judges also raised concerns that the stop and search provisions invited “a clear risk of arbitrariness”, as well as disproportionately targeting blacks and Asians.

“While the present cases [Gillan and Quinton] do not concern black applicants or those of Asian origin, the risks of the discriminatory use of the powers against such persons is a very real consideration,” they added.

The Home Secretary has vowed to appeal against the ECHR decision although Lord Carlile, the government’s official reviewer of terrorism laws, said:

“In my view, section 44 is being used far too often on a random basis without any reasoning behind its use.”

“The fundamental point that the court is making is that it increases the possibility of random interference with the legitimate liberties of the citizen.”

The government’s mismanagement of the balance between security and liberty has taken a few blows in recent months as judges have ruled against the use of secret evidence in imposing control orders or denying individuals bail. And with the Home Secretary’s ban on Islam4UK announced yesterday, it would seem the government’s still far from striking the right balance.

See also Henry Porter on The Guardian’s Liberty Central blog.

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