Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 16:41 UK

'Terror Act search was Orwellian'

Travellers at Paddington Station
The police can stop anyone without a reason to suspect an offence

Police officers are trying to racially balance official figures in the way they select people to search under terrorism laws, it has been suggested.

Lord Carlile said there was ample anecdotal evidence of officers searching people under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act who were "so obviously far from any known terrorism profile".

One 19-year old student, from Oxfordshire, told the BBC he was "incensed" after being stopped and searched by four officers at London's Paddington Station earlier this month.

He was given no reason for the search, which caused him to miss his train and delayed his journey from London to Oxford by two hours.

"It was Orwellian in the extreme. They were restricting my movements for no reason.

I was searched in front of everybody in the station. It was totally and utterly embarrassing

"I was so incensed it took me two hours to calm down and get on another train," said the student, who is white and British.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows police to stop and search someone without suspicion that an offence has occurred.

Charles, who did not want to give his surname, is due to write to the Met's head of counter-terrorism, Assistant Commissioner John Yates, to express his dismay at the way the powers are being used.

The student, who is re-taking some exams in his gap year and hopes to study law, was waiting for his mother outside La Senza lingerie shop inside the station when he was approached by four Metropolitan Police officers.

"They said they were stopping me under Section 44. They said they did not need a reason to do it.

"Then they proceeded to search me. I was searched in front of everybody in the station. It was totally and utterly embarrassing."

Charles, who was not carrying a bag, said his pockets were searched and he was "patted down everywhere".

Search legal

His details were taken and he was later told they would be kept on a local police database.

He said when filling in the subsequent paperwork the officers ticked 'presence in the area' as a reason for the search.

"I asked if they thought I looked like a terrorist. They said no, but they had to do it just so it was fair on everybody.

"It seemed like they were just trying to tick the boxes. One officer said it was something they did 'in their spare time'."

Following the search, Charles was "so angry" he called the Met Police duty inspector, whom he said could offer "no evidence of this [tactic] working".

"Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see that their chances of finding a terrorist in this way are practically none," Charles said.

"They are just picking people out at random instead of doing their job and looking for the right people.

"The police were acting within the law, that's the stupid thing. I just want to get the point across that this is going on."

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