(TimesOnline) – The number of people and vehicles stopped and searched in England and Wales under controversial counter-terrorism laws soared by two thirds in a year, according to figures published today.
In spite of the jump in stop and searches hardly any resulted in a charge or even an arrest.
Almost 95 per cent of searches were carried out by officers in London, where there was an 83 per cent increase in 2008/9, the Home Office figures show.
The number of stop and searches for other suspected offences rose by 10 per cent to 1.1 million — the second year in a row that it has topped the million mark.
Almost half of the 1.1 million stop and searches were carried out by police suspecting people of possession of illegal drugs.
Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, promised a full review of the UK’s counter-terrorism laws, which he said would end police abuse of stop and search powers.
He said: “Gordon Brown and Labour have trampled our civil liberties for far too long.
“Whether they’re trying to impose ID cards, or allowing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to be stopped and searched under Terrorism powers, they always seem to think the State knows best.”
The pledge to review counter-terror laws did not appear in the Conservative Party manifesto published earlier this week.
Home Office figures show 210,000 stops and searches under anti-terror laws in the year to the end of March last year — up 66 per cent on the previous year.
Only 0.6 per cent of the searches led to an arrest and only nine of the arrests were for an alleged terrorist offence.
Anti-terrorism officers ordered an increase in the use of Section 44 powers after the failed bomb attacks at the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Piccadilly, Central London, and the bomb attack at Glasgow airport in the summer of 2007.
Section 44 allows the police to search any person or vehicle in an area identified by the Home Office as one that might be targeted by terrorists, without the need for suspicion that a crime is being committed. By contrast, stop and search under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 requires officers to have reasonable suspicion that a criminal act is being committed.
The extent of the use of Section 44 has led to concern that it is being abused by officers.
The Metropolitan Police scaled back their use of Section 44 last year. The whole of London is no longer designated an area where it can operate. Instead, police are focusing on a number of specified locations, including Westminster and other areas of key national or iconic importance.
Since the end of December 2008 stop and searches under Section 44 have fallen.
In January the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it was unlawful for police to use the powers without any grounds for suspicion.
Police stop and searches in cases where they feared that violence might break out almost trebled in a year, mainly as a result of action to target knife crime in London and other big urban areas.
A total of 150,174 stop and searches were carried out in anticipation of violence in 2008/9 — up 182 per cent on the previous year. Only 3 per cent of these stop and searches led to an arrest and just 544 people were arrested for allegedly possessing an offensive weapon.
Most other searches are carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and were up 10 per cent at 1,153,000, nearly half of which were for suspected drugs.
Just over half of all stop and searches in England and Wales were conducted by police in London, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.
Source: Times Online