Illegality of stop and search terror law upheld by European court, says Liberty

June 30, 2010

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected the former Government’s appeal against a court ruling that police use of Section 44 stop-and-search powers is illegal, according to a statement released by Liberty.

Police use of Section 44 stop-and-search anti-terrorism powers was ruled ‘illegal’ by the European Court of Human Rights in January.

The controversial law, which allows police officers to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion, has been heavily criticised by many, including photographers.

The European Court of Human Rights had ruled that police powers to stop and search have ‘not been curbed by adequate legal safeguards so as to offer the individual adequate protection against arbitrary interference’.

But the former Government lodged an appeal against the decision.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg had been hearing a case involving Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton who were stopped outside the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition in London in 2003.

Quinton had reportedly been filming a protest outside the exhibition, which took place in Docklands.

The court had ruled that their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated.

Commenting on the court’s ‘rejection’ of the Government’s appeal, Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said tonight: ‘This appeal was always doomed. The objectionable policy of broad stop and search without suspicion was wrong in principle and has proven divisive and counterproductive in practice.

‘The Great Repeal Bill promised by the new Government provides the perfect opportunity for the UK finally to comply with this common sense judgment.’

The European Court of Human Rights had yet to confirm its rejection decision to Amateur Photographer (AP) this evening.

Yesterday, when contacted by AP, the Home Office repeated the Government’s intention to review police stop-and-search powers as part of a wider review of anti-terrorism legislation.

The press statement, as released by Liberty today, is below:

Section 44 stop and search powers

30 Jun 2010

Today the European Court of Human Rights confirmed it has rejected the British government?s final appeal over section 44 stop and search powers.

In January 2010, the Court ruled in the case of Gillan and Quinton v the United Kingdom that section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (the broad police power for stop and search without suspicion) violated the right to respect for private life guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights.

In April 2010 the Government requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court but this has now been refused, making the January judgment final.

The case arose from an arms fair in the Docklands area of East London in September 2003 where Pennie Quinton and Kevin Gillan (amongst many other journalists and peace protestors) were subject to a lengthy stop and search and prevented from attending a demonstration.

After public consternation and parliamentary questions, it emerged that the whole of Greater London had been secretly designated for stop and search without suspicion on a rolling basis since 2001.


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