Vikram Dodd reports:
Police have asked the government for a new counter-terrorism power to stop and search people without having to suspect them of involvement in crime, the Guardian has learned.
A previous law allowing counter-terrorism stops without suspicion, section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, was scrapped this year by the home secretary, Theresa May, after European judges struck it down for breaching human rights.
But police, including the Metropolitan force, which leads the UK fight against terrorism, say they need a boost to their counter-terrorism powers, which they worry are now too weak.
They have asked for a law which would be much more limited than section 44. It would be restricted to a specific period of time and to a limited geographic area or a specific place or event.
The crucial aspect of the ruling, and thus the hurdle any new power must clear, is not to be random and indiscriminate in its scope. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said that with the right safeguards her organisation might not oppose the new power: “The devil will be in the detail. What safeguards will there be, who can trigger the power, what is the threshold for turning it on, what public scrutiny will there be?”
Read more in the Guardian. The issues are identical to concerns here in the U.S. about whether some laws are selectively used against minorities when there is no individual reasonable suspicion. A revision to UK law that would enable them to stop and search individuals at specific events sounds like it might address one of the concerns – unless every event held by particular religious or minority groups are designated as cause for security/terrorism concern. As always, accountability and oversight are essential to prevent abuses of power.