â€œExamples of poor or unnecessary use of section 44 [Terrorism Act 2000] abound. I have evidence of cases where the person stopped is so obviously far from any known terrorism profile that, realistically, there is not the slightest possibility of him/her being a terrorist…In one situation the basis of the stops being carried out was numerical only, which is almost certainly unlawfulâ€¦A section 44 stop, without suspicion, is an invasion of the stopped personâ€™s freedom of movementâ€¦It is totally wrong for any person to be stopped in order to produce a racial balance in the statisticsâ€.
Not the words of a crusading civil libertarian but the sober judgement of Lord Carlile, the governmentâ€™s official anti-terror law watchdog, in his annual report. Under section 44, police can stop and search anyone in a designated area without suspicion that an offence has occurred. Last year out of a total of 117,278 people stopped and searched, 73,967 were white, 15,218 were blacks and 20,768 were Asians. Lord Carlile said that he can understand the concerns of the police that they should be free from allegations of prejudice, but it is an invasion of the civil liberties of the person who has been stopped, simply to â€œbalanceâ€ the statistics. According to the â€˜Guardianâ€™, he later went on to say that â€œif, for example, 50 blonde women are stopped who fall nowhere near any intelligence-led terrorism profile, itâ€™s a gross invasion of the civil liberties of those 50 blonde women. The police are perfectly entitled to stop people who fall within a terrorism profile even if it creates a racial imbalance, as long as it is not racistâ€. He could here be accused of validating the concept that it’s OK to stop a non-white, but not OK to stop a blond woman, even though the vast majority of Asians and black people are as far from any known terrorism as he perceives blond women to be.
Nearly 90 per cent of the searches were carried out by the Metropolitan Police, whose officers use section 44 to carry out stop and search between 8,000 and 10,000 times a month. Lord Carlile admits a sense of frustration that the Metropolitan Police still do not limit their section 44 authorisations to specific boroughs, rather than to the entire force area. He can see no justification for the whole of the Greater London area being under permanent special search powers. None of the many thousands of searches has ever resulted in conviction of a terrorism offence, and he says that its utility has been questioned publicly and privately by senior Metropolitan Police staff with wide experience of terrorism policing.
Lord Carlile calls for greatly reduced use of section 44 powers and repeats what he calls his â€œmantraâ€, that terrorism related powers should be used only for terrorism-related purposes. Otherwise their credibility is severely damaged. â€œThe use of section 44 has attracted particular criticism as having a negative effect on good community relations. Its purpose and deployment are poorly understoodâ€.
The full text of Lord Carlileâ€™s report can be found at:-