An Encounter With the Terrorism Act

I was on London Bridge station this morning heading into work and minding my own business when two cops (well one real cop and one Community Service Officer) decided to stop me. It gave me a first hand experience of how much our rights have been eroded.

Naturally, I asked why they were stopping me. PC 1231 (he refused to give his name) said it was purely random, I was the seventh person to walk past or some such. I asked again on what grounds I was being stopped. 1231 said it was under the Terrorism Act. I politely enquired as to what grounds he thought I was a terrorist.

He said that he did not need grounds, that under Section 44 subsection 2 of the Terrorism Act he could stop and search anybody and did I understand this? I told him I understood the individual words.

He seems to be right because on the back of my copy of the Stop & Search form I found this little gem:-

Sec. 44(1) and 44(2) of the Terrorism Act 2000

“There are also powers to stop and search vehicles and their occupants (44(1)) and pedestrians (44(2)) in an area, if a senior officer authorises it, to prevent acts of terrorism.

“For these three powers, the officer does not have to have reasonable grounds to suspect the individual stopped or searched of carrying dangerous instruments or offensive weapons or of involvement in the anticipated violence or terrorism. However these powers may only be used by police officers in uniform.” 

I asked to see proof that they were in fact police officers. 1231 pointed to his number, said that he was an officer in uniform and did not have to produce ID. They would have searched me there and then in the middle of the platform if I had not objected. I was taken to the yard off Platform 16 and searched there. I suspect that the “randomness” of my selection may have more than a little to do with the fact that I am darker than the average white man, have a beard and do not wear a suit.

Incidently, he radioed my details in, asking for confirmation – and got it. Those of us who object to the Government’s proposals for ID cards on the grounds that they require the creation of a national database containing the details of every citizen have clearly lost that battle. Quite obviously, the National Identity Register already exists.

You might think that this is a minor inconvenience in the fight against Islamic terrorism but consider this – these powers exist under the Terrorism Act 2000, so they have existed since before the events of 9/11, let alone 7/7. Benjamin Franklin’s famous observation that those who give up their liberty to purchase safety will have neither has been proven correct. We lost a chunk of liberty in 2000 but as the events of 7 July 2005 proved, we have not become more safe as a consequence.

And if I had been a suicide bomber?

I would have had time to set my bomb off before being apprehended. If PC 1231 is typical of the forces defending us from Al-Qaida, then pretty soon we’ll all be bowing to Mecca five times a day.

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13 Responses to “An Encounter With the Terrorism Act”

  1. manigen Says:

    He didn’t have to show any ID? But that’s ridiculous; any idiot could dress up as a police officer and start stopping people to search them.

  2. jaycueaitch Says:

    Which was why I asked for ID but obviously that argument doesn’t hold water. Bit of an insight as to what it’s like to be black or a Muslim in this country. And then the cops wonder why people don’t like them.

  3. censored Says:

    There was a major operation at my local station on Friday, with people being funnelled into a metal detector, and a sniffer dog on hand. I avoided both as a matter of principle. I sent the following email to the police:

    I would be grateful if you could provide the following information:

    1. Under what legislation were police officers compelling people to walk through the metal detectors?

    2. Were people issued with forms informing them of the reason for the search, the outcome of the search and the names of the officers involved?

    3. If there was no compulsion to go through the metal detectors, were members of the public informed of this prior to agreeing to the search? If not, why not?

    4. If there was no compulsion to be searched, can you clarify the following sentence take from a report in the local newspaper? “Plain clothes police officers made sure people who tried to avoid the scans were checked.”

    5. Under what legislation were plain clothes police entitled to monitor members of the public and compel them to undergo a search? Did these officers identify themselves to the people involved?

    6. Notices at the station told members of the public that this was an operation to reduce the number of knives and other weapons. Why, then, were sniffer dogs deployed?

    7. If sniffer dogs were deployed to detect drugs, why were the notices displayed to the public about the operation incorrect and misleading?

  4. bainesy1969 Says:

    The “without reasonable grounds” powers in the Terrorism Act 2000 are not unfettered – although that is small consolation (nor are they unprecedented – c.f. section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, where incidents involving serious violence are reasonably believed to be imminent). The preceding sections of the TA2000 (41 – 43) provide that a search such as you experienced must be supported by an authorisation (by an officer no lower in rank than a commander) and that authorisation must be confirmed within 48 hours by the Secretary of State. As far as I know though (and this is where the matter becomes chilling, depending on your point of view) there has been a “rolling”, continuous authorisation on the metropolitan police area since 2001.

    And don’t bother trying to challenge this – the Lords threw out a challenge back in 2003 (R v.
    Met Commissioner ex parte Gillan and Another).

  5. manigen Says:

    Good questions. It’ll be interesting to see what they say in reply.

  6. pj Says:

    The problem with the police is that they are not lawyers – and this means they are not necessarily that familiar with what the law actually says.

    I’ve known police to refuse to allow solicitors to represent suspects being questioned on utterly specious grounds (‘you don’t have criminal law listed on your law society profile’) or to threaten to arrest lawyers who point out that the crime they are threatening to arrest someone under doesn’t exist!

  7. pj Says:

    I’ve also seen policemen cover up their numbers when brutalising protestors, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they refused tp show ID.

    This is worth reading:

    “Acting on the request of the IPCC, the Police sought legal advice from the Department of Justice on whether a police officer in uniform was obliged to show his warrant card on demand by members of the public. The legal advice was that “a warrant card, rather than a uniform, is evidence of an officer’s appointment as a police officer under the Police Force Ordinance, Cap. 232”.”

  8. jaycueaitch Says:

    Interesting, bainesy. I think a letter to my MP is in order.

  9. brainduck Says:

    Check out useful info here: http://www.schnews.org.uk/diyguide/
    See also FITWATCH esp if London: http://www.fitwatch.blogspot.com/

    I’ve been arrested for political stuff. The police generally don’t know the law well, and will get weirded out if you quote it at them. Should you be at a demo, look out for people in high-vis vests with LEGAL on, they are *not* with the police.

    Try & get police numbers. If you get arrested, yell the numbers, along with your name if you intend to give it (don’t give a fake name, gets you in much worse trouble). Police at demos will often take their numbers off.

    Get in front of photographers. Wave anything you can at the camera. Don’t let them think they can go un-noticed or un-challenged – and don’t bother arguing with them, just get in the way.

    If they try & move you physically, go floppy. It’s much harder to pick someone up if they are limp & floppy, though practice helps.

    NEVER give them a DNA sample unless arrested (when they can use ‘reasonable force’), once you are on the database you can never get off, even if you aren’t charged or found guilty.

    Bung me an email if you need more info on making complaints. The Met are notorious.

    Should you end up getting arrested, belting out hymns at the top of your voice is a fun way to annoy the police drivers, whilst avoiding saying much that they can use against you later.

  10. Susan Says:

    See today’s news:

    A police force has apologised after a disabled child and his parents were detained at a Channel crossing point under the Terrorism Act

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7520598.stm

  11. jaycueaitch Says:

    The scary thing about that is that it shows the Terrorism Act is being used totally inappropriately. Even if the cop did have suspicions that they were child trafickers, the Terrorism Act is not relevent.

  12. jdc325 Says:

    The Torygraph covered that family in Poole who were spied on by the council using anti-terror legislation (or “powers intended for anti-terrorism surveillance”) a couple of months ago. If you pass a piece of legislation it will not only be used, it will most likely be abused.

  13. Elennaro Says:

    Brainduck, why would you go limp when arrested, or start shouting hymns? As far as I can see this serves little purpose other than to annoy the police, which isn’t going to help you, or anyone else…

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