By Max Clarke
The government is again being urged to stop its controversial ‘stop and search’ without reasonable suspicion policy.
The policy was introduced under the Terrorism Act, granting police liberty to stop individuals and conduct searches of their possessions, without the need for evidence, or even suspicion of a real threat.
The action is controversial, and likely had an exacerbating effect on the recent London riots: it was allegedly after a police officer stopped and searched a youth in Hackney that his friends rushed to intervene and violence erupted there, shortly after disturbances flared for a second night in Tottenham.
Random stop and searches have, in fact, been found to be in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights article 8- the respect of private life. A ruling in a landmark legal case- Gillan and Quinton v UK- ruled in favour of the defendents, deeming the UK government in violation of the ECHR.
Nonetheless, the government persists with the damaging policy, repeatedly ignoring advice from advisory bodies. Dr. Hywel Francis MP, chair of the Joint Select Committee, comments:
"We are disappointed that, despite some welcome clarifications, the Government has not accepted the need to amend this Order to prevent possible future human rights violations.
We want the Independent Reviewer, David Anderson QC, to examine the operational gap which the Government says justifies using the urgent procedure for this Order.
The power to stop and search without reasonable suspicion is rightly controversial and has to be very tightly controlled. We remain concerned that, as it stands, without tighter definition of the power and stronger legal safeguards, the Order will not prevent future legal challenges."
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