Police stop and search 100 people a day under new anti-terror laws

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, is facing an onslaught over the Government's anti-terror laws after figures showed nearly 36,000 people were stopped and searched under the emergency powers last year. The number of people stopped and searched each year has soared since the Act came into force in 2001, when 10,200 people were stopped. It rose to 33,800 in 2003-04.

Campaigners will mount a legal challenge in the House of Lords today, as they attempt to limit the laws giving police sweeping powers to stop people even if they have no grounds to suspect them of a crime.

The Home Office revealed that people were being stopped at the rate of nearly 100 a day under the powers used to detain a peace campaigner, Walter Wolfgang, at last year's Labour Party conference.

Figures in a Home Office report showed that 35,776 searches of vehicles and people were recorded under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which was passed six years ago. Despite the high number of people stopped, only 455 were arrested. The newest statistics, which cover the 2004-05 financial year and do not include the aftermath of the July bomb attacks on London, represent a record use of the powers since the Act came into force.

The Home Office insisted the powers were essential to disrupt terrorist activity.

But campaigners warned that the law opened the door to discrimination and could be used to suppress legitimate demonstrations. A detailed breakdown of people stopped under the Act in 2003-04 found that more than one in five of those stopped were black or Asian, while reports suggest a huge increase in the number of black and Asian people being stopped since the London bomb attacks.

Lawyers acting for the civil rights pressure group Liberty will launch a test case in the House of Lords today, claiming the law breaches fundamental human rights.

They will press the case of Pennie Quinton and Kevin Gillan, who were among about 140 people arrested under the Terrorism Act at an international arms fair in east London in 2003.

Ministers also face opposition in the House of Lords next week when Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers will attempt to tighten the law to limit the power of police to authorise blanket stop-and-search operations.

Under conventional law, you can be stopped and searched by police if they have any suspicion you have committed a crime.

But the Terrorism Act, when sanctioned by a senior officer, allows police to stop and search people even without suspicion - something that campaigners say is a throwback to the notorious "sus" laws of the 1970s. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: "This is almost worse than the sus laws. The police have the power to change the law of the land in whole parts of the country.''

Dominic Grieve, the shadow Attorney General, said: "These figures speak for themselves. The powers are being used as a blunt instrument and it is far from clear if those arrested are being done so for terrorism. "While we accept such powers may be necessary to protect the public from terrorism, it is vital these powers are not abused."

A spokeswoman for the Home Office insisted the legislation was needed to disrupt potential terrorist attacks. She said: "Stop and search under Section 44 is an important tool in the fight against terrorism. As part of a structured strategy, it aims to create a hostile environment for would-be terrorists to operate in."

John Catt, retired builder: 'It is very menacing when this happens'

John Catt, 81, an anti-war campaigner, has been stopped twice under the Terrorism Act. On the first occasion, the retired builder was stopped in east London and police searched the van he was driving. He said: "I was stopped in Shoreditch when I was pinned in by two police cars. They asked ridiculous questions like where was I going and why, how old I was and where I had been. They searched the back of the van and gave me a receipt to say why I had been stopped."

On the second occasion, he was questioned as he walked through Brighton wearing an anti-Blair T-shirt. He had been making his way to an anti-war demonstration at the seafront, outside the Labour Party conference in the city.

He said: "I was walking down Middle Street in Brighton towards a protest against the war and so on. I had a T-shirt on and had a plastic bag with some felt pens and some board because I draw." He said he was stopped and asked questions, before continuing to the demonstration. He said: "It is very menacing when you see this happening. Our civilisation is on the line."

Kevin Gillan, Student: 'They went through all my stuff'

The police stopped and searched Kevin Gillan as he cycled to an arms trade demonstration in London three years ago. He will challenge the Terrorism Act in the House of Lords today, claiming that it is a breach of human rights. His case, and that of the photographer Pennie Quinton, is backed by the civil liberties pressure group Liberty.

Mr Gillan, 28, a PhD student from Sheffield who has been researching political protests, was among 140 people arrested under the Terrorism Act outside an international arms fair in 2003 in London's Docklands.

Mr Gillan said: "I was within sight of the Excel Centre when the police stopped me. They asked to search me and said it was under the Terrorism Act. A police officer went through my stuff and confiscated some bits of paper with details of other demonstrations. It took about 20 minutes.

"I was pretty amazed that they were using anti-terror legislation against protesters. The law is giving an incredible amount of power to the police. It is an exceptionally strong law. These are supposed to be extraordinary powers, not used all the time."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor