Government to re-examine anti-terror guidance

April 30, 2008

Police officers are expected to be issued with fresh guidance in a government bid to ensure they do not abuse their stop-and-search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000.

The Home Office outlined the plans after a police body complained that officers are not sufficiently trained in how to correctly apply anti-terror legislation when dealing with photographers.

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Peter Smyth said that officers are ?not properly trained in this legislation and that is probably leading to misunderstandings?.

He was speaking on BBC Radio 4s iPM programme last Saturday, which focused on increasing concerns that photographers are being unfairly stopped and questioned by police when taking photos in public places.

In response to the police claims, a Home Office spokesperson told Amateur Photographer: ?We want to make sure that this power, which is useful in creating a hostile environment for would-be terrorists to operate in, is being applied appropriately and proportionately. The review will look at guidance for the use of Section 44 to make sure that this is the case.?

She added: ?One of the key aims of the guidance is to set out a framework for the use of Section 44 powers to ensure that they are used appropriately by officers on the ground. The guidance clearly states that the powers should only be used for searching for articles which could be used in connection with terrorism.?

Police, civil liberties groups and ?other stakeholders? are being invited to comment on the existing guidance until May 16.

Amended guidance is due to be published in November, according to the Home Office.

Earlier this year, civil rights group Liberty told us that stop-and-search powers are meant to be ?exceptional powers which allow the police to act without any grounds for suspicion?. The lobby group added: ?It is incredibly important that anti-terror stop and searches never become an ?everyday? police power because of the negative long-term impact on community relations and apparently, the Arts.?

The reassessment of police stop-and-search guidance forms part of a review announced by the Prime Minister in October last year.

The move comes as issues surrounding the rights of photographers to take pictures in public continue to grab the headlines.

The campaign to protect street photography is gathering pace, boosted by recent coverage on TV and widespread support from MPs.

Labour MP Austin Mitchell plans to raise the issue directly with Home Office Minister Tony McNulty and hopes to include a representative from Amateur Photographer magazine in a ‘delegation’ to visit the Home Office.


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YouTube posting: AP on BBC Breakfast television

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