European court limits police "stop and search" powers

IssueSeptember 2010
News by David Polden

On 8 July, home secretary Teresa May announced the suspension of “stop and search” powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Section 44 allows police to stop and search anyone in a designated area without needing reasonable suspicion of their being engaged in illegal, let alone terrorist, activity.

According to ministry of justice statistics, in 2008 less than 0.1% of those stopped under the section were even arrested for terrorism offences; and black and Asian people were four times more likely to be stopped than white people.

The decision was forced on the government by the European court of human rights (ECHR) which, in January, ruled that section 44 powers were so broad as to fail to provide safeguards against abuse, thus violating the right to respect for private life guaranteed by article 8 of the convention on human rights.

The police however retain wide powers to stop and search under other legislation.