No terror arrests in 101,000 stop-searches

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No-one stopped and searched by police under controversial anti-terror powers was arrested for a terrorism-related offence, figures showed today.

A total of 101,248 stops and searches were made under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 in 2009/10, but only one in every 200 led to an arrest and none of these were terror-related, the figures released by the Home Office showed.

Home Secretary Theresa May ordered a review of the controversial stop and search powers earlier this year, saying she wanted to correct "mistakes" made by the Labour government which, she said, was allowed to "ride roughshod" over civil liberties.

Across Great Britain, 506 arrests were made after people were stopped and searched under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, 0.5% of the 101,248 stops and searches, compared with 10% of stops carried out using non-terror powers.

But the use of the stop and search powers fell by 60% compared with 2008/09, the figures showed.

Anti-terrorism chiefs ordered an escalation in the use of the powers after the failed bomb attack against the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London's Haymarket in 2007.

That resulted in more than a quarter of a million people being searched in 2008/09 - the highest on record and more than twice the level of the previous year.

But after a public outcry over the use of searches, which have a disproportionate effect upon minority groups, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson ordered them to be scaled back in London.

The powers allow officers to stop anyone in a specified area without the need for reasonable suspicion.

The review of the Government's counter-terrorism policy, which will report shortly, is being carried out by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Ken Macdonald, who led changes in the way terrorists are prosecuted.

It involves police, spies, public officials and campaigners and will focus on control orders, stop-and-search, pre-charge detention, deportation of terror suspects and the use of surveillance by local authorities.

Of all the stops and searches, four out of five of these were made in the Metropolitan Police area, with almost a fifth being made by British Transport Police.

Overall, 59% described themselves as white, 17% as Asian or Asian British, 10% as black or black British and 2% as of mixed ethnicity, the figures showed.

For the first time, the statistics also included an overview of the number of passengers who were examined while travelling through the UK's air and sea ports.

One in every 30,000 passengers was examined last year, 0.03% of the 220 million passengers going through the ports.

Of these exams, 97% (82,870) took under one hour while 2,687 (3%) were more than an hour.

The figures come the day after British Airways chairman Martin Broughton said airport security checks needed an overhaul.

He said some parts of the security programme were "completely redundant" and that the UK should not "kowtow" to the Americans every time the US wanted something done.

The number of terrorism arrests also fell last year, down to 173 from 190 in 2008/09, separate figures showed.

But the majority of the 52 charged were charged with offences that had nothing to do with terrorism.

A total of 27 people were charged with non-terror related offences, including perverting the course of justice, placing or dispatching articles to cause a bomb hoax or knowingly obtaining another person's identification documents with intent.

Of the others, 12 were charged with offences under terrorism legislation, including the collection of information useful to terrorists, preparation for terrorist acts and fundraising.

And a further 13 were charged under non-terrorism legislation with an offence the authorities considered to be terrorism-related, including acting with intent to cause, or conspiring to cause, explosions likely to endanger life.

Since the September 11 terror attacks in the United States in 2001, 261 suspects have been charged under terrorism legislation, 199 (76%) prosecuted, and, of those prosecuted 64% (127) convicted. A further seven were awaiting completion of their trials.

A further 143 were charged under non-terrorism legislation, including conspiracy to murder and conspiring to cause an explosion, the figures showed.

Of these, 133 (93%) were prosecuted, and, of those prosecuted 83% (110) convicted. A further seven were awaiting completion of their trials.

Of the 46 terrorism-related trials completed last year, 65% of defendants were convicted, of which two in five pleaded guilty.

They were given five life sentences and one in four custodial sentences handed down were of 10 years or more.

New figures also showed 51 appeals against terrorism convictions were heard in the three years between 2007/08 and 2009/10, with seven convictions being quashed. In all, 20 of the appeals led to a shorter sentence and four resulted in a longer sentence.

As of March 31 this year, there were 102 terrorist-related prisoners in England and Wales, of whom 76% were UK nationals and four in five (83%) classified themselves as Muslims. There were no prisoners classified as terrorists held by the Scottish Prison Service.

And 25 terrorist-related prisoners were discharged from prison last year, including 10 who had served sentences of four years or more.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, said: "These Home Office statistics highlight what a crude and blunt instrument stop and search without suspicion has been.

"It costs us dearly in race equality and consent-based policing with very little return in terms of enhanced security."

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, which campaigns against intrusions on privacy, added: "This is no surprise. Rather than a genuine counter-terrorism tool, random stop and search has been a way of bullying and hassling our increasingly abject population.

"We have to decide what kind of society we want to live in. Random stop and search allows the state to confront the individual in the street, without cause, and demand your papers. It's wrong."