So Labour’s just going to go ahead and ignore the ruling. It’s almost as though they’re throwing the next election to the Conservatives.
Flashback: UK: From snapshot to Special Branch: how my camera made me a terror suspect | UK: Photographer questioned under anti-terror laws for taking pictures of Christmas lights | UK: Big fall in police use of stop-and search powers after outcry | UK Police in Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£9m scheme to log ‘domestic extremists’ | UK anti-terrorism strategy ’spies’ on innocent | Olympic security follows protester’s friend | EU Plans Massive Surveillance Panopticon That Would Monitor “Abnormal Behavior” | Pentagon Caught Subverting Protest Group | UK: Big Brother state wants even more spy powers | Toronto TAVIS special police corps demanding ID on city streets | DoD Training Manual Describes Protest As “Low-Level Terrorism” | UK: Police caught on tape trying to recruit climate activist as informant | UK police maintain databank on thousands of protesters | UK: Government ‘using fear as a weapon to erode civil liberties’ | Former MI5 chief: UK Ministers ‘using fear of terror’ to restrict civil rights | UK: Calling the police to account for anti-photography law | Olympic security boss puts protesters on notice | UK Big Brother police to get ‘war-time’ power to demand ID in the street | Activists seen as potential threat to Vancouver Games | Protestors added to database of terror suspects | RCMP conducts random search and seizure on Canada Day | Papers Please: UK cops stopping millions in streets
Alan Travis, The Guardian
January 12, 2010
Judges at European court of human rights said powers lacked adequate safeguards against abuse
A crucial element of the government’s Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âcounter-terrorism policy lay in tatters tonight after a European court ruled that the Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â”arbitrary” stop and search of people without suspicion was illegal.
Seven judges at the European court of human rights said that random stop and search powers under section 44 of the Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ÂTerrorism Act were far too widely drawn and lacked adequate parliamentary and legal safeguards against abuse.
They ruled that the privacy rights of a peace protester, Kevin Gillan, and a Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âjournalist, Pennie Quinton, were unlawfully abused when police stopped and searched them on their way to a demonstration outside the annual Excel Centre arms fair in east London in 2003.
Quinton was ordered to stop filming by the police despite showing her press card. They were awarded Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£30,400 costs.
The home secretary, Alan Johnson, voiced his disappointment with the ruling and indicated he would take the highly unusual step of seeking to appeal against it in the court’s “grand chamber” of 17 judges, which requires him to show “exceptional” circumstances in the case.
“Stop and search under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is an important tool in a package of measures in the Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âongoing fight against terrorism,” said Johnson.
“I am disappointed with the ECHR ruling in this case as we won on these challenges in the UK courts, including the House of Lords.”
After several hours of scrutiny of the judgment by Home Office lawyers this afternoon, they decided that the UK law still stands and Johnson issued a statement saying that “pending the outcome of this appeal, the police will continue to have these powers available to them”.
His decision to defy the ruling comes as he is expected to publish a review on anti-terrorist control orders, which have also taken a battering in the courts.
Lord Carlile, the official reviewer of terrorism laws, said today the implications of the ruling were “quite serious” and could now require a change in the law.
“In my view, section 44 is being used far too often on a random basis without any reasoning behind its use,” he said. “The fundamental point that the court is making is that it increases the possibility of random interference with the legitimate liberties of the citizen.”
Section 44 is supposed to give the police the powers to search for “articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism” in a designated area renewable every 28 days.
But since it came into force in 2001 it has been widely used against anti-war and anti-globalisation protesters, Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âphotographers and even Japanese tourists. More than 117,000 searches took place under the powers in 2008 and the European judges drew special attention to the statistics showing black and Asian people were at least four times more likely to be stopped.
Gillan, who was detained by the police for 20 minutes as he was cycling to join the demonstration, said: “It’s fantastic news after a long struggle. I look to the government for a strong response.”
Quinton, who was in the area to film the protests, said she hoped that it would lead to fairer legislation to protect them: “It’s not about saying that there’s no need for stop and search. What we’re really saying is people have a right to privacy and there needs to be a balance between police powers to ensure our safety but also our rights to a private life.”
The Strasbourg ruling said that the Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âpublic nature of the searches they endured meant there was an element of Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âhumiliation and embarrassment that could not be Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âcompared with airport searches.
The fact the decision to search was based exclusively on the police officer’s own “hunch” without adequate legal safeguards against abuse meant they could not be “in accordance with the law”.
Corinna Ferguson, Liberty’s legal officer who acted for Quinton and Gillan, said that in the coming weeks MPs and peers must finally “sort out this mess”.
Conservatives and Liberal Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ÂDemocrats both criticised the continued use of the counter-terror laws to conduct Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âroutine day-to-day policing and pointed out that everyone from trainspotters to amateur photographers had been targeted by Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âsection 44.
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