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Friday, July 09, 2010

Further gains on civil liberties

In yet another move that underlines the coalition government's desire to reverse the illiberal aspects of the last Labour Government, the Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that new restrictions are being placed on a controversial police power used to stop and search people.

The BBC say that the police will now not be allowed to use the power unless they "reasonably suspect" a person of being a terrorist. This follows a European Court of Human Rights ruling last month that the power to search people without suspicion under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was illegal.

As if to further demonstrate how out-of-touch Labour remain, the Shadow Home Secretary Alan Johnson opposed the move saying that it will make the police's job harder. However, that is not the view of Alex Carlile, the government's independent reviewer of anti-terror legislation, who said Section 44 had been ineffective in combating terrorism, had caused community tensions and was used "arbitrarily and for incorrect purposes":

"Section 44 has given a lot of trouble and, in any event, it's now illegal," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

"You don't have to search people to discourage terrorists, the evident availability of police officers in the area, obvious uniformed policing, is just as much of a deterrent."

The last word as ever should be given to Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, who have campaigned against the power for 10 years.

"It is a blanket and secretive power that has been used against school kids, journalists, peace protesters and a disproportionate number of young black men.

"To our knowledge, it has never helped catch a single terrorist. This is a very important day for personal privacy, protest rights and race equality in Britain."

Good post Peter, now lets see if the Boys in Blue pay any attention to this development. FOI request in a years time perhaps?
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