NEWS

U.K.: Police Force Suspends Stop and Search Counterterrorism Powers

By Matthew Harwood

A police force is southern England has suspended a controversial police power that allows police to stop and search street-goers that was originally meant to prevent terrorism.

The Hampshire Constabulary will no longer use Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows police to stop and search any one in a specific area in an effort to deter terrorist attacks.

Despite thousands of searches by police in Hampshire in 2007/2008, there were no terrorism-related arrests, reports The Independent.

Hampshire Police used section 44 of the Act on 3,481 occasions in 2007/8 and made 36 [non-terrorism] arrests. The numbers were a massive increase on the previous year's 580 stop and searches.

"We now have suspended Section 44 Stop and Search until such time as the perceived threat is raised to the highest level," assistant chief constable David Pryde said in a statement.

Pryde said the high-level of stop and searches were due to the June 2007 attempted-Glasgow Airport suicide SUV bomb attack, which only killed one of the two terrorists after he succumbed to his injuries a month afterward.

Civil libertarians applauded the move.

According to the Independent, legal director of Liberty, James Welch, said:

"Hampshire Police's suspension of Terrorism Act stop and search is an extremely welcome step for which the force is to be congratulated. Normal stop and search powers, triggered by reasonable suspicion, are more than adequate for routine policing and far less likely to alienate law-abiding people. Parliament now needs to follow the Police's lead and tighten up the infamous section 44 power that has been so prone to abuse in recent years."

Across England and Wales in 2007/2008, police used Section 44 powers 124,687 times, according to BBC.com, quoting Home Office statistics. The number of stop and searches marked an increase of almost 200 percent over the previous year.


♦ Photo of police stop and search by meophamman/Flickr

 

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