Theresa May to consult on scaling-back of terror powers


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Indy Politics

Anti-terror powers which enable officers to stop anyone entering the UK and detain them without reasonable suspicion could be scaled back, the Home Office has said.

Asian communities feel they are being singled out by officers using the so-called Schedule 7 powers disproportionately against ethnic minorities, campaigners and police chiefs have warned.

Under the proposals, the maximum examination time could be reduced from nine hours; increased oversight and training could be brought in, and those stopped could be given the same rights to publicly-funded legal advice as those transferred to police stations.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “The Government takes all necessary steps to protect the public from individuals who pose a threat to national security.

”Schedule 7 measures form an essential part of the UK's border security arrangements, helping to protect the public from those travelling across borders to plan, finance, train for and commit terrorism.

“Examining people at ports and airports is necessary to protect public safety, but we want to ensure these powers are used proportionately, and are effective.

”This consultation seeks the views of the public to help ensure we get this right.“

The powers are ”informed by the current terrorist threat to the UK so certain travel routes may be given greater focus“, the consultation document said.

A total of 73,909 people were examined under the powers between April 2010 and March 2011, with 915 of these detained, figures released in the document showed.

Almost half (45 per cent) of those detained described themselves as Asian or Asian British, while less than one in 10 (8 per cent) said they were white,

For examinations, two in five (40 per cent) described themselves as white, while less than a third (28 per cent) said they were Asian or Asian British.

Over the last three years, from April 2009 to March 2012, a total of 230,236 people were examined, with 97.2 per cent of these (almost 224,000) lasting less than one hour.

Some 2.2 per cent (about 5,000) took one to three hours, 0.6 per cent (less than 1,400) three to six hours and 0.06 per cent (about 140) more than six hours.

David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorist legislation, said the power had been ”instrumental in securing evidence which was used to convict dangerous terrorists“.

And, refusing permission for a judicial review of the power last December, High Court judge Mr Justice Collins said the essential power was ”necessary in a democratic society“ and ”the contrary is not arguable“.