By Daily Mail Reporter
Force uses stop and search power 3,400 times – but suspends it after failing to make single terror arrest
A police force suspended its Terrorism Act stop and searches after figures showed it had conducted the procedure more than 3,400 times in 2007/8, but arrested no-one connected with terror.
Hampshire Police used section 44 of the act on 3,481 occasions and made 36 arrests that were unconnected with terrorist activity.
The numbers were a massive increase on 2004/5, when there were only 275 stop and searches under section 44 by the force, and a large jump from 2006/7 when there were 580.
The figures are in sharp contrast to similar-sized neighbouring force, Thames Valley, which used the stop and search powers 244 times in 2007/08 making 40 unconnected to terrorism arrests.
However, another neighbouring force, Surrey Police, did use it 2,559 times in 2007/8 but again with no arrests for terrorism recorded.
Hampshire Assistant Chief Constable David Pryde said the figures had made the force think again.
‘After review, we determined that it would be appropriate to be more in line with other forces.
‘We now have suspended Section 44 Stop and Search until such time as the perceived threat is raised to the highest level.’
Ministry of Defence Police Section 44 Stop and Search incidents are also recorded under Hampshire and there are a large number of military installations in Hampshire.
According to Home Office statistics, 124,687 Section 44 stop and searches were carried out in England and Wales in 2007/08 – almost three times the 41,924 of the previous year.
Eighty seven per cent of the searches took place in the Metropolitan Police area.
Legal director of Liberty, James Welch, said the powers have been abused and he welcomed the move by the force.
‘Hampshire Police’s suspension of Terrorism Act stop and search is an extremely welcome step for which the force is to be congratulated,’ he said.
‘Normal stop and search powers, triggered by reasonable suspicion, are more than adequate for routine policing and far less likely to alienate law-abiding people.
‘Parliament now needs to follow the Police’s lead and tighten up the infamous section 44 power that has been so prone to abuse in recent years.’
Last month Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws, condemned the wrongful use of Section 44 in his annual report.
He said police were carrying out searches of white people they had no basis for suspecting of any terror offence so they could avoid accusations of prejudice.
The terror threat against Britain is largely from Islamist extremists and the stop and search figures show disproportionately more Muslims and Asians being searched than whites.
But the Liberal Democrat peer and QC said police should stop trying to correct the ‘ethnic imbalance’.
He also criticised the Metropolitan Police over stop and searches in the capital, the number of which he called ‘alarming’.
‘I repeat my mantra that terrorism-related powers should be used only for terrorism-related purposes, otherwise their credibility is severely damaged,’ he said.