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Home Office launches urgent review of illegal police stop'n'search

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The government has launched an urgent internal review of police stop and search powers after acknowledging officers had used the powers illegally.

Security minister Baroness Neville-Jones said an internal review of stops under section 44 of the Terrorism Act had uncovered 40 cases where police forces had misapplied the powers. These give officers the right to stop and search anyone they like in a designated area, without reasonable suspicion.

Home secretary Theresa May is variously reported to be "incandescent", "spitting blood" and "livid" about the findings, according to The Times.

Errors include 33 occasions when forces asked for a 29-day window to search people, according to the Press Association. The act only allows for 28-day windows. Perhaps the searches were in leap years?

A 2004 stop and search sweep by the Met netted 840 stops, but did not get the appropriate authorisation from a government minister, according to reports. The Met accounted for 10 of the 40 operations concerned.

Baroness Neville-Jones said the government was endeavouring to contact every one who had been illegally stopped and searched, so that it can apologise to them.

According to The Guardian, the probe was triggered by an FOI request.

The review covered the period up to 2008. Procedures were tightened up at that point, following increasing complaints about stop and search. The government believes no errors have occurred since then.

It should be noted that today's statement covers the procedures for police forces getting permission to undertake sweeps. It doesn't appear to cover coppers' alleged tendency to cite the Act to stop photographers, er, photographing. ®

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