Stop and search powers illegal, European court rules
The ability of UK police to use "arbitrary" counter-terror stop and search powers against peace protesters and photographers lay in tatters today after a landmark ruling by the European court of human rights.
The Strasbourg court ruled it was unlawful for police to use the powers, under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, to stop and search people without needing any grounds for suspicion.
The widely-drawn ruling said that not only the use of the counter-terror powers, but also the way they were authorised, were "neither sufficiently circumscribed, nor subject to adequate legal safeguards against abuse".
The use of these powers has grown fourfold, from 33,177 times in 2004 to more than 117,200 in 2008.
The Metropolitan police have used them most, but 11 other forces in England and Wales also make routine use of them.
A political furore ensued when it was disclosed that the whole of Greater London had been secretly designated for stop and search without suspicion since 2001.