Police terror searches 'just for statistics'

Police are making unjustified searches of members of the public to provide "racial balance" to stop and search statistics, it was revealed today.

Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terror laws, said he knew of cases where suspects were stopped by officers even though there was no evidence against them.

He warned that police were wasting money by carrying out "self-evidently unmerited searches" which were an invasion of civil liberties and "almost certainly unlawful".

Lord Carlile, a Liberal Democrat peer and QC, condemned the wrongful use of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 in his annual report on anti-terror laws.

He said police were carrying out the searches on people they had no basis for suspecting so they could avoid accusations of prejudice.

As the terror threat against Britain is largely from Islamist extremists, the figures show disproportionately more Muslims and therefore more Asians being searched than whites.

But the peer said police should stop trying to balance the figures, and it may be that an "ethnic imbalance" is a "proportional consequence" of policing.

He wrote: "I have evidence of cases where the person stopped is so obviously far from any known terrorism profile that, realistically, there is not the slightest possibility of him/her being a terrorist, and no other feature to justify the stop.

"In one situation the basis of the stops was numerical only, which is almost certainly unlawful and in no way an intelligent use of the procedure.

"I believe it is totally wrong for any person to be stopped in order to produce a racial balance in the Section 44 statistics. There is ample anecdotal evidence this is happening.

"I can well understand the concerns of the police that they should be free from allegations of prejudice, but it is not a good use of precious resources if they waste them on self-evidently unmerited searches.

"It is also an invasion of the civil liberties of the person who has been stopped, simply to 'balance' the statistics.

"The criteria for section 44 stops should be objectively based, irrespective of racial considerations: if an objective basis happens to produce an ethnic imbalance, that may have to be regarded as a proportional consequence of operational policing."

Figures released earlier this year revealed a huge increase in searches using Section 44 powers.

Officers in England and Wales used the powers to search 124,687 people in 2007/8, up from 41,924 in 2006/7 and only 1% of searches led to an arrest.

Nearly 90% of the searches were carried out by the Metropolitan Police which recorded a 266% increase in its use of the power.

Officers in London use Section 44 to carry out stop and search between 8,000 and 10,000 times a month.

Lord Carlile questioned why Section 44 powers are thought to be needed in some areas but not in others facing similar levels of risk.

He criticised the Metropolitan Police for not limiting Section 44 use to parts of London, and said the number of searches being carried out by the force was "alarming".

He said: "I cannot see a justification for the whole of the Greater London area being covered permanently, and the intention of the section was not to place London under permanent special search powers.

"The figures, and a little analysis of them, show that section 44 is being used as an instrument to aid non-terrorism policing on some occasions, and this is unacceptable."

He added "I repeat my mantra that terrorism-related powers should be used only for terrorism-related purposes; otherwise their credibility is severely damaged."



Lord Carlile said the use of Section 44 had an "undoubtedly negative" impact on community relations.

He added: "I am sure it could safely be used far less. There is little or no evidence that the use of Section 44 has the potential to prevent an act of terrorism as compared with other statutory powers of stop and search."

After the publication of stop and search figures earlier this year, the Met announced it was reviewing its use of Section 44, and in future it would be restricted to policing "iconic" or strategically important sites.

A Home Office spokesman defended the use of the powers. He said: "Stop and search under the Terrorism Act 2000 is an important tool in the on-going fight against terrorism.

"As part of a structured anti-terrorist strategy, the powers help to deter terrorist activity by creating a hostile environment for would-be terrorists to operate.

"Countering the terrorist threat and ensuring good community relations are interdependent and we are continuing to work with the police to ensure that the use of stop and search powers strikes the right balance."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Sport
Sean Abbott
cricketSean Abbott is named Australia's young cricketer of the year
News
i100
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea