European court pulls plugs on terror stop and search
Another clumsy fail for the Home Office
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the UK police's use of stop and search powers granted under terrorism legislation is illegal.
The case was brought by two people who were stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act of 2000 while on their way to an arms fair.
The law grants police the power to search anyone regardless of suspicion. A senior police officer can grant the power for a defined area; this must then be confirmed by the secretary of state within 48 hours.
Since the law was passed in February 2001 there has been a rolling programme of applications and authorisations for the whole of the Metropolitan Police area all of the time.
The court objected on several grounds. It found the searches interfered with the right to a private life and that, unlike airline passengers, people had in no way consented to be searched. It found a lack of basic safeguards in use of the powers - no minister has ever objected or sought to change the terms of such an order.
The court was not impressed with the independent reviewer who has complained since May 2006 that the law is being over-used.
Finally the court objected to the lack of any controls on the individual police officers - they only have to say they had a hunch rather than show reasonable grounds for a search.
In summary the Court found the powers "were neither sufficiently circumscribed nor subject to adequate legal safeguards against abuse".
The court also found from statistics that black and Asian people "were disproportionately affected by the powers".
Between 2004 and 2008 total searches recorded went up from 33,177 to 117,278.
Kevin Gillan, a 32-year old student and Pennie Quinton, a 38-year old reporter and photographer, were on their way to a demonstration at an arms fair being held in Docklands when they were stopped.
The two applicants share €33,850 in costs and expenses.
Policing and Security Minister David Hanson MP said: ”Stop and search under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is an important tool in a package of measures in the ongoing fight against terrorism.
”I am disappointed with the ECHR ruling in this case as we won all other challenges in the UK courts, including at the House of Lords. We are considering the judgment and will seek to appeal.” ®
For the ten millionith time, the ECHR has nothing to do with the EU. It comes under the Council of Europe, a separate body more akin to a European local version of the UN, and dates from 1950, so has been around for rather more than fifty years now. So the German and French voters have had no more or less say on the matter than the UK voters. It's an international treaty that we freely signed up to and ratified.
Basically the ECHR was largely written by British jurists using British principles of civil rights in order to show Johnny (European) Foreigner how to behave decently after the then Recent Unpleasantness. The great irony, of course, is that we don't practice what we breach and the UK has been called up for more violations of the Convention than any other European state.
@ac - WHAT?
"which system is more qualified to be calling the shots here?"
Innit obvious, twit? The one that's defending your freedom.
ECHR = it's Magna Carta
Actually ECHR is the European Court of Human Rights and has nothing to do with the European Union. It was a court and a set of fundamental rights set up in the post war period to protect the rights of Europeans, and ensure that we would never have a repeat of the German Nazi build up. UK was a primary player in creating it.
So suppression of free speech, splitting up families, detention without charge, warrantless search, etc. all these things became illegal and each country agreed to incorporate these things in their laws.
It was simply a reflection of the rights the UK had from the Magna Carta.
"The European legislature has not even been in place for 50 years, whereas the UK's evolutionary system has been in place for almost 1000 years. One could raise the question "which system is more qualified to be calling the shots here?"."
No, 800 years, Magna Carta protected these rights. The removal of Habeas Corpus was a Nu Labour thing, it had stood since the Magna Carta back in the 1200s!!
Tell me, do you think an UNELECTED leader is smarter than ALL the ELECTED leaders from the previous 800 years combined? I don't. He can't face election from his own party, he certainly can't be allowed to take away fundamental rights.