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Stop and search illegalities

The chief constable of Kent, Mike Fuller, admitted in the High Court on 12 January that his police had conducted illegal “stop and searches” on 11-year-old twins, Dave Morris and other activists at the August 2008 week-long Climate Camp at the Kingsnorth power station. Police had already been heavily criticised for brutality towards protesters at the camp by officers who hid their badge numbers and for using loud music to stop activists sleeping.

The High Court was told that the twins were among some 3,500 protesters who were herded into airport-style “checkpoints” during the protest. The twins were searched under the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which requires officers to have a reasonable suspicion that an individual is carrying weapons, drugs, stolen property, or evidence relating to a crime. The twins’ mother described how one son had overheard that police had been confiscating stickers and so feared he would “go to prison” because of a sticker in his bag and was left “crying and shaking”.

The very same day the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it was unlawful for police to use arbitrary stop and search powers against peace protesters and photographers under terrorism legislation, because it breached their European Convention right to privacy. The case was brought by Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton who had been stopped and searched under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 outside an arms fair in east London in 2003. The court awarded the two more than £30,000 compensation against the police.