An oversight by a Home Office minister has led to hundreds of Londoners being illegally stopped and searched under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
According to a statement made by the Home Office yesterday, stop and search powers were used in around 40 operations despite a 48 hour deadline for Home Office authorisation having been breached. Not only this, but the 28 day limit for stop and search powers was exceeded by some police forces.
Stop and search under anti-terror legislation has been widely criticised for targeting certain ethnic groups - according to one report, black and Asian people in Wandsworth were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites in the borough. Photographers have also hit out at the heavy-handed use of the Terrorism Act to impede photography in central London while protesters at demonstrations have found legislation originally intended to prevent terrorism apparently being used to intimidate them. Kent police were successfully sued over their illegal use of stop and search at a climate change demonstration and the Met could find themselves in the same boat if the 840 people estimated to have been the unlucky recipients of a stop and search decide to pursue compensation claims.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) claim that all the illegal stop and searches were the result of administrative errors and that none have occurred since they tightened things up a bit in 2008. Well, that's alright then. Liberty, however, say the exposure of these blunders simply highlights the secrecy surrounding stop and search authorisations based on counter terrorism.
Let's hope the Home Secretary's vow to review all counter-terrorism legislation doesn't become a victim of the widely-publicised government spending cuts.