Thursday, December 14, 2006
Cost Of Stop And Search
There's nothing like a bit of personal experience to concentrate the mind. To be frank, until my experience on Monday, I'd imagined that terrorist Stop and Search was mainly directed at dodgy looking Taliban types, hippies on their way to communal dope smokes outside US airbases, and octogenerian lefties at Labour Party conferences. Serve 'em all right, kind of idea.
Now of course, I know better.
And I also know that whereas policemen - such as my brother-in-law, ex-DI Regan - always used to need "reasonable suspicion" that you were actually involved in something bad before stopping you, now under Section 44 of Labour's Terrorism Act 2000, they don't. If you're in certain areas, like say London, they can just stop and search you- yes, you- anytime they feel like it.
According to this fascinating post on the Independent Race and Refugee News Network (under what other circs would I have even found it, let alone read it?):
"To regulate the use of such wide powers a special process of ministerial authorisation was set up to restrict such stops to a limited place and time where it was thought, on the basis of specific intelligence, necessary to prevent terrorism...
However, in practice, the Metropolitan police has had a rolling authorisation across its whole district since February 2001. This has been justified on the grounds that the whole of London has been under permanent threat of terrorist attack over this time. And this fact only emerged by chance. It was only during a court hearing into the policing of protests at an arms fair in the Docklands in October 2003 that it emerged that the Section 44 powers had, in fact, been renewed every 28 days since the Act came into force in February 2001. Till then, the public had not even been told that these powers were in permanent effect.
The operation of these powers is surrounded with a climate of secrecy and non-accountability that cannot be justified by operational reasons alone."
You can say that again.
Ah, you might argue, ah, but at least these powers stop terrorism.
Except of course, as we saw only too clearly last year, they don't.
They may constitute a gross infringement of our civil liberties, but in terms of effective anti-terrorist policing, it's just one more helping of half-baked New Labour wibble. It's not even half-baked- that's a gross slur on all those fine packs of supermarket ciabatta.
IRR News has more:
"In the year 2002/3, police in England and Wales conducted 21,577 stops and searches in under Terrorism Act powers. Whereas 13 per cent of stops and searches under normal police powers resulted in an arrest, the arrest rate for stops and searches on suspicion of terrorism was just 1.7 per cent. And the overwhelming majority of these arrests had nothing to do with terrorism. Only eighteen arrests in connection with terrorism were made in that year as a result of the 21,577 stops and searches carried out. None of these arrests resulted in a conviction for terrorist offences."
And even the police now agree the situation is unsustainable. On Tuesday- just one day after my own bust- Britain's top anti-terrorist policeman said as much:
"Andy Hayman, the Metropolitan Police's assistant commissioner responsible for anti-terror probes, said few arrests or charges arose from such searches.
"It is very unlikely that a terrorist is going to be carrying bomb-making equipment around... in the street," he told a London police authority hearing.
It was "a big price to pay" given some people feel unfairly targeted.
Mr Hayman said the powers were well intended, "to try and prevent, deter and disrupt terrorist activity. But we have to question the way we use a power that causes so much pain to the community we serve but results in so few arrests or charges. Is it worth it?"
Well intentioned. But crap. And with all kinds of very harmful unintended side effects.
Now where've we heard that before?
So when is this nonsensical and outrageous law going to be repealed?
Posted by Mike D at 4:34 pm