Today it has been reported that British police have been abusing anti-terror laws on members of the public in order to provide “racial balance” in stop and search statistics under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows police to stop and search anyone without suspicion that a crime or offence has been commited.
Liberal Democrat peer and QC, Lord Carlile, condemned the abuse of powers in his annual report on anti-terror laws.
Lor Carlile said: “I have evidence of cases where the person stopped is so obviously far from any known terrorism profile that, realistically, there is not the slightest possibility of him/her being a terrorist, and no other feature to justify the stop.
“In one situation the basis of the stops was numerical only, which is almost certainly unlawful and in no way an intelligent use of the procedure.
“I believe 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 this is happening.
“I can well understand the concerns of the police that they should be free from allegations of prejudice, but it is not a good use of precious resources if they 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 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 continued: “I cannot see a justification for the whole of the Greater London area being covered permanently, and 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. I repeat my mantra that terrorism-related powers should be used only for terrorism-related purposes; otherwise their credibility is severely damaged.” “I am sure it could safely be used far less. There is little or no evidence that the use of Section 44 has the potential to prevent an act of terrorism as compared with other statutory powers of stop and search.”
Use of Section 44 by officers in London is up by 266% and is used between 8,000 and 10,000 times a month.