. When I read the first few paragraphs of the story, I cynically thought, “What’s the big deal? Our government is doing the same to every air passenger in America every day.” But it’s not the same, because in U.S. airports
is checked including 70 year old white grandmothers, as absurd and outrageous as that is, while, in this instance, white people are being deliberately singled out for searching. (However, there is also the passing implication that blacks who are not terror suspects are being stopped as well, but, again, PC, a.k.a. plain cowardice, prevents the
Members of the public are being stopped and searched under controversial anti-terror laws to racially balance the overall official figures, the Government’s watchdog over the issue said today.
Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC, also said people are being stopped by police when there is not the slightest possibility of the individual being a terrorist.
He warned of the “poor and unnecessary” use of special powers which give police the ability to stop anyone in a designated area without them having “reasonable suspicion”.
Lord Carlile said there was little or no evidence that blanket use of searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 had the potential to prevent a terror attack.
He added that he could see no reason for the whole of Greater London to be permanently designated an area where the power could operate.
In his annual report on the operation of the anti terror laws, Lord Carlile said: “I repeat my mantra that terrorism related powers should be used only for terrorism related purposes; otherwise their credibility is severely damaged. The damage to community relations if they are used incorrectly can be considerable.” [LA replies: “community relations” is the cowardly British expression for race and religion relations. Also note that the article doesn’t tell us what office Lord Carlile occupies that makes him government watchdog over this issue. Is everyone simply supposed to know this?]
He said there was evidence that people are being stopped by police to produce a racial balance for the official statistics.
“I believe that it is totally wrong for any person to be stopped in order to produce a racial balance in the Section 44 statistics. There is ample anecdotal evidence that this is happening,” he said.
He said he understood why the police are anxious to ensure they should be free from allegations of prejudice but it was not a good use of resources to waste them on “self evidently” unmerited searches.
“It is also an invasion of the civil liberties of the person who has been stopped, simply to ‘balance’ the statistics,” the report said.
Lord Carlile said: “The criteria for section 44 stops should be objectively based, irrespective of racial considerations: if an objective basis happens to produce an ethnic imbalance, that may have to be regarded as a proportional consequence of operational policing.”
He said that examples of the poor use of Section 44 abound. “I have evidence of cases where the person stopped is so obviously far from any known terrorist profile that, realistically, there is not the slightest possibility of him or her being a terrorist and no other feature to justify the stop.”
He added: “In one situation the basis of the stops being carried out was numerical only, which is almost certainly unlawful and in no way an intelligent use of the procedure.”
Lord Carlile said the chief police officers must always bear in mind that a stop under Section 44 is an invasion of a person’s freedom of movement.
Figures released earlier this year revealed a huge increase in searches using Section 44 powers. Officers in England and Wales used the powers to search 124,687 people in 2007/8, up from 41,924 in 2006/7 and only 1 per cent of searches led to an arrest.
Nearly 90 per cent of the searches were carried out by the Metropolitan Police which recorded a 266 per cent increase in its use of the power. Officers in London use Section 44 to carry out stop and search between 8,000 and 10,000 times a month.
He criticised the Metropolitan Police for not limiting Section 44 use to parts of London and said the number of searches being carried out by the force was “alarming”.
He said: “The intention of the section was not to place London under permanent special search powers.
“The figures, and a little analysis of them, show that section 44 is being used as an instrument to aid non-terrorism policing on some occasions and this is unacceptable.” [LA asks: is this an implication that they are using the section to stop and frisk blacks who are not reasonably suspected of being terrorists?]
The number of people searched in Greater London under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 increased dramatically after two thwarted terrorist attacks in 2007 outside a nightclub in London and at Glasgow airport.
Ethnic minorities bore the brunt, with the number of black people stopped in London increasing by 322 per cent and the number of Asians searched increasing by 277 per cent. The increase for white people was 185 per cent.
Earlier this year the Metropolitan Police agreed to limit its use of Section 44 powers.
Lord Carlile also highlights concerns over police threatening people with prosecution under anti terror laws for taking photographs of officers on duty.
He said photography of police on duty was legitimate unless the photograph is likely to be of use to a terrorist. “It is unexcusable for police officers ever to use their provision (of anti terror laws) to interfere with the rights of individuals to take photographs. The police must adjust to the undoubted fact that the scrutiny of them by members of the public is at least proportional to any increase in police powers—given the ubiquity of photograph and video enabled mobile phones,” he said.
Alan Johnson said in a response that the Home Office is preparing to clarify the position both for the public and police on the issue of taking photographs of officers on duty.
A Home Office spokesman defended the use of the powers. He said: “Stop and search under the Terrorism Act 2000 is an important tool in the on-going fight against terrorism.
“As part of a structured anti-terrorist strategy, the powers help to deter terrorist activity by creating a hostile environment for would-be terrorists to operate.
“Countering the terrorist threat and ensuring good community relations are interdependent and we are continuing to work with the police to ensure that the use of stop and search powers strikes the right balance.”