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Anti-terror laws need to stop terror, not harass the innocent

The European court ruling today that police have been violating human rights by using the Terrorism Act 2000 to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion is welcome.

Police officers have been misusing the stop and search powers to effectively apprehend whoever they wish, even though most of the time there no reason to believe the people who are pulled over have anything to do with terrorism.

Today’s ruling, far from being “a blow to the government’s policy on combating the threat of terrorism”, is in reality the natural consequence of the force’s systematic exploitation of the anti-terror law to stop and search members of the public that they otherwise would not have reason to apprehend.

Misuse of the Terrorism Act began with cops using the law to control football crowds in Wolverhampton. This tactic soon spread to areas around other soccer grounds.

Today, the same measure is used to prevent professional photographers taking snaps of London landmarks, and as a means of ratcheting up the stop rates of young people, particularly black and Asian youth.

Stops and searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 have increased dramatically, with twenty four per cent of those stopped of Asian background, while 14% were black and 54% were white.

It is, as the Institute for Race Relations conclude, racial profiling. Quite simply our anti-terror laws need to be focused on tackling terrorism, not reintroducing the old Sus laws by the back door.

By Lester Holloway

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