The BBC reports that,
The UK’s senior counter terrorism police officer has questioned the value of stop-and-search powers.
Andy Hayman, the Metropolitan Police’s assistant commissioner responsible for anti-terror probes, said few arrests or charges arose from such searches. [under s44 Terrorism Act 2000]
“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, he said.
Mr Hayman said the powers were well intended, “to try and prevent, deter and disrupt terrorist activity”.
He added: “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?”
In a press statement, Toby Harris, MPA member with special responsibilities for counter-terrorism, said: “The very clear message from Londoners through the MPA counter-terrorism hearings has been that there is real unease over the disproportionate and inconsistent use of this power.”
You can view the statistics for 2004/5 in a document (668Kb PDF) available from the Home Office website. In summary:
- there were 21,142 searches of vehicle occupants under s44(1), leading to 35 arrests in connection with terrorism and 240 arrests under other legislation (i.e. 1.3% of searches led to arrests); and,
- there were 10,941 searches of pedestrians under s44(2), leading to 24 arrests in connection with terrorism and 112 under other legislation (i.e. 1.2% of searches led to arrests).
I’m not sure what proportion of stops and searches ‘should’ result in an arrest but, in comparison, 11% of searches under PACE resulted in an arrest.Some statistics for arrests and charges under the Act, from 11 September 2001 until 30 September 2005, are also available from the Home Office website. Roughly half were released without charge.
People who have been stopped and searched under s44 include:
- Walter Wolfgang, a heckler at the Labour Party conference (see also Sussex Police), was just ‘stopped’;
- Mark Wallace, a campaigner against ID cards at the Labour Party conference (426 people were stopped under section 44 and none was charged or convicted);
- John Catt, stopped for “carrying plackard [sic] and T-shirt with anti-Blair info”, the purpose of the stop and search was stated as “terrorism”;
- David Mery, because they found his behaviour suspicious.
But s45 says,
45. – (1) The power conferred by an authorisation under section 44(1) or (2)-
(a) may be exercised only for the purpose of searching for articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism, and
(b) may be exercised whether or not the constable has grounds for suspecting the presence of articles of that kind.
I have to wonder if the police really believe that hecklers and protestors would be carrying articles that could be used in connection with terrorism.
Liberty has published guidance on what you may do in the event of being subjected to a stop and search under s44.
The BBC reports that,
Two terror suspects who breached control orders and went missing earlier this year are still on the run, Home Secretary John Reid has revealed.
Er… sort of. One of them somehow disappeared before he was served with the order, so the “order is therefore not in operation“. He breached the obligations of an earlier order that was to be quashed by the courts (see below).
One of the men went on the run about four months ago. The other disappeared more than two months ago. [We were informed in October]
A separate report from the government’s terror watchdog said a third suspect could face prosecution for “numerous” alleged control order breaches.
One of the missing men – a British national known as AD – escaped from a mental health unit at the end of September.
The other man – an Iraqi known as LL – vanished from his address in the north of England in August after being charged with seven offences of breaching his control order.
His control order was then quashed by the Court of Appeal in separate legal proceedings.
I don’t believe that timeline is correct. As I understand it, LL had his order (along with five others) quashed on 28 June 2006 by the High Court, pending an appeal made by the Government within seven days of the decision. The Government appealed in July, but lost (decided on 1 August 2006), and the order was quashed. Then LL somehow disappeared.
I recommend reading the judgements for the detail – they are quite unlike the Government’s version of events – particularly the obligations of the control orders listed in Annex 1 of the High Court decision.
To sum up, the courts decided that these obligations (including remaining indoors for 18 hours a day) amounted to a ‘deprivation of liberty’ contrary to Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights. In addition, “LL faced criminal charges for alleged breaches of his order. If the order was quashed, he would have a defence to those charges; if it was simply modified he would not. As the order had been made without jurisdiction, the former course would produce the just result.”
The Home Office could – and did – devise a new set of obligations for LL. But the authorities failed to serve him with the order.
Police and prosecutors will not be able to take action against him because officers had not handed him a modified version of a control order before he disappeared.
A report [16Kb PDF] on the aftermath of the abscondments has been published by the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism law, Lord Carlile of Berriew.
It said: “I am satisfied that the two disappearances… present little direct risk to public safety in the UK at the present time. In each case it is unlikely on the facts that active terrorists would wish their presence or involvement at the present time in any activity or planning, despite the knowledge and connections which had led to the control orders made against them.”
In my opinion it doesn’t help when people such as the Prime Minister make comments such as these:
Control orders were never going to be as effective as detention, but of course we have got to make sure that if someone breaches their control order then they are properly sought after, and we will do that, and that is a job for the police. But the reason why it is difficult is that the legislation that we had in place, that we wanted to maintain, was then overturned. And some of the self-same people who are criticising us on control orders today were leading the charge against the legislation that would have allowed us to detain these people.
Quite different from what really happened.
There was also the disturbing (and backwards, it seems to me) case of a man who was found not guilty of “not guilty of four charges of making or possessing a video of potential terrorist targets” and subsequently issued with a control order. This just doesn’t seem right at all.
I believe there is a terrorist threat. I have no idea of the extent of it. But I do know that I don’t want to live in a country where people can be indefinitely punished on the word of a politician.
Also, simple mistakes have been made.
And they don’t want to limit these powers to people suspected of terrorism.