Stop and search scrapped after human rights ruling

8 July 2010 by

The controversial stop and search anti-terrorism powers are to be scrapped after a decision of the European Court of human Rights that they violated human rights law.

According to a press release on the Home Office website, the decision will have immediate effect and is a direct response to the European Court’s decision:

Theresa May today tells Parliament that the government will change how stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act are used, with immediate effect.

The move is in response to a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (new window), which found that the use of stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (new window) amounted to a violation of the right to a private life.

The court said the powers were drawn too broadly – at the time of their initial authorisation and when they are used – and did not have enough safeguards to protect civil liberties. This means that the laws setting out the use of stop and search powers had then to be repealed or amended to bring them in line with European law.

Stop and search powers will still be available to the police, but only under section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which provides:

A constable may stop and search a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist to discover whether he has in his possession anything which may constitute evidence that he is a terrorist.

Section 44 did not require “reasonable suspicion”, as long as an area had been designated as an authorised area. This was seen by the European Court as a step too far, and it was revealed recently that the police had been failing to use the powers properly in any event. The final blow to the Government came last week, when the European Court turned down their request to appeal the original judgment.

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