Stop and search powers are curbed

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The Independent Online

Police can no longer stop and search people unless they have "reasonable suspicion" that they are a terrorist. The rules were changed yesterday by Theresa May, the Home Secretary.

Officers will not be allowed to use Section 44 powers to search pedestrians, which enabled them to stop someone for no reason. Instead, people can only be stopped and searched under Section 43 powers, which require police to reasonably suspect the person to be a terrorist. It follows a European Court of Human Rights ruling that the power to search people without suspicion – under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 – was illegal.

Ms May told the Commons yesterday that the Government could not appeal against the judgment and would not have done even if it could. "I can therefore tell the House that I will not allow the continued use of Section 44 in contravention of the European Court's ruling and more importantly, in contravention of our civil liberties," she said. She added that in future Section 44 would only be available where it was "necessary" to prevent terrorism and would only apply to searching vehicles.

And she said she was introducing a new "suspicion threshold" which would limit the use of stop-and-search powers in the future.

The changes will be in force until a wide-ranging review of counter-terrorism legislation by the Government has been completed and acted upon.

The move was welcomed by civil liberties campaigners, coming after years of complaints that police misused the anti-terror laws. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, backed the move, saying Section 44 had "criminalised and alienated more people than it ever protected".