Police demand stop and search power
The British police have demanded that the government allow them more power by law to stop and search people even without suspect evidence.
Senior police officers in Britain have suggested that a new ‘stop and search’ bill as a counter-terrorism measure should be approved by law-makers for them to be able to better protect the public.
The Home Secretary Theresa May ruled out Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows counter-terrorism stops without suspicion, after European judges issued a verdict about a related case that was deemed against human rights.
However, the Metropolitan force officers who lead the UK fight against terrorism, say that a more powerful ‘stop and search’ legal permission is necessary, especially during specific periods when the public is in greater danger from terrorists.
They have mentioned that such periods concern events such as the 2012 London Olympics, state occasions such as trooping the colour, and major summits such as the G20 when held in the UK.
Currently, section 43 of the Terrorism Act allows searches, but an officer must have reasonable suspicion for the stop to be lawful.
The ‘stop and search’ power issue is a very controversial one since it could breech the rights of ethnic minority Britons, which in turn would boost racial discrimination in the UK.
It is believed that Section 44 fell into disrepute because it failed to lead to the capture of a single terrorist after 100,000 stop-and-searches, and it was used in some cases against protesters and photographers, the Guardian writes.
“Where officers have the maximum discretion that is where you have the greatest racial discrimination in the way the police have used their powers. We would want to be absolutely certain that police are not targeting ethnic minority communities for unfair stops and searches,” said Ben Bowling, a professor of criminology at King’s College of London and founding member of Stopwatch, which campaigns against alleged police abuses of stop and search powers.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the civil liberties pressure group, said, “It must target specific places, not classes of people, on the basis of intelligence and risk for narrow windows of time, with adequate authorisation and transparency. Then it will satisfy proportionality and equal treatment whilst providing a rational, flexible aid to anti-terror policing.”
But senior police officers have said that they are hopeful to win UK ministers’ support on the issue.