Thousands Wrongly Detained By Police Terror Law In UK
Fourteen police forces have unlawfully stopped and searched thousands of people on the streets under controversial counter terror powers, the Home Office disclosed today.
The blunder occurred when police detained people without having permission to do so from a Home Office minister. On other occasions police continued to stop and search people for longer than they had been given authorisation under the law.
The 14 police forces involved are now in the process of establishing how many people have been wrongly stopped and search but in London alone the figure is 840.
The serious errors were uncovered during an internal Home Office review of the authorisation process for stop and searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Under the power police can stop and search members of the public in a designated area without having a reasonable suspicion that they are involved in crime.
Baroness Neville-Jones, the Security Minister, said: “I am very concerned by these historical administrative errors. To maintain public confidence in our counter-terrorism powers, it is absolutely crucial all those responsible for exercising them do so properly.
“I take these matters extremely seriously and have instructed the department to conduct an urgent review of current procedures to ensure that errors can be prevented in the future.”
She added: “The Government is already committed to undertaking a review of counter-terrorism legislation which will include the use of stop-and-search powers in section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. We shall make our findings known as soon as possible.”
In a written ministerial statement to MPs, Nick Herbert, the Police Minister, said that the Metropolitan Police had found one authorisation to stop and search people in April 2004 that had not been authorised by the Home Secretary within 48 hours, as required by law.
The police paperwork error led to a review in May this year of all authorisations under Section 44 powers since the Terrorism Act 2000 became law in February 2001.
It found that on 33 occasions authorisations were said to be for 29 days and on two occasions for 30 days when the lawful maximum is 28 days. In two cases authorisations were not confirmed by the Home Secretary within 48 hours.
Mr Herbert said: “All of these cases appear to have been as a result of administrative errors that were not identified at the time by either the police or the Home Office.”
The police forces involved in the paperwork blunder are Kent, Sussex, Durham, Cleveland, City of London, Metropolitan Police, Thames Valley, North Yorkshire, Hampshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Greater Manchester, Fife and South Wales.