Police admit they mistakenly handed out leaflets to the public containing the address of a stop and search website that was disowned by the Home Office two years ago.
Endorsed by the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police, the leaflet (see below) is handed out to people when they are stopped and searched under anti-terror laws.
But, last year, police were told to destroy the leaflets after it emerged that the website it quotes had been hijacked by political activists in 2008.
?This is an old leaflet that was handed out in error,? a Metropolitan Police spokesman told Amateur Photographer (AP) this morning.
The leaflet, which explains a person’s rights and outlines police powers under Section 44 and Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000, states: ‘For further information on stop and search and your rights please visit www.stopandsearch.com.’
The website address directs the public to a group who say they are ‘deeply concerned about our [former] Government’s unquenchable thirst for power’.
The two-sided leaflet, entitled ?Protecting You From Terrorism? was given to a man when he was stopped and searched under Section 44 while driving along Grosvenor Road, SW1 on 31 May.
The reason for the stop was not photography related and the man – who subsequently handed the leaflet to AP – was not charged with any offence.
However, it seems it may have been one of many such leaflets distributed to the public by mistake.
In recent years many amateur and professional photographers have complained about the use of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act which gives police officers the right, in designated areas authorised by a police chief, to stop and search an individual ? and confiscate an article ? whether or not there are grounds to suspect a connection with terrorism.
?The content of the leaflet was reviewed in February 2009 and reference to the website was removed. Officers were instructed to dispose of any old leaflets and use the new version,’ said the Met spokesman.
He added: ?A reminder will be issued to ensure any versions of the old leaflet which are still in existence are destroyed.
?The leaflet is designed to inform members of the public stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act about their rights as well as the operational context and benefits of police using these powers.?
A fortnight ago, a Home Office spokesman told us: ‘The Home Office does not own this website. There has been no security breach.’
The Home Office confirmed that it owned the web address until a reorganisation of government websites a few years ago.
The Association of Chief Police Officers yesterday refused to comment on the matter, telling AP that this is not a policy issue but the responsibility of individual police forces.
The Home Office has said it does not have the power to control information that now appears on the now obsolete Home Office website.
The news comes a week after it emerged that police forces across the UK conducted unauthorised stops and searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
It is thought that thousands of people were unlawfully stopped by 14 police forces before December 2008.