Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Terrorism arrests rising in UK

Armed police at Parliament
The government said it would "disrupt" terrorists when it could not prosecute

A total of 201 people were arrested on suspicion of terrorism last year, 66 of whom were eventually charged, Home Office figures reveal.

The number is up on last year, when 178 arrests were made.

In total there have been 1,759 terrorism arrests since 11 September 2001, the figures show.

The number of people stopped and searched under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act fell to 200,444 in 2009, a 12% drop from 2008.

The figures relate to England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland publishes separate figures.

Of the 66 people charged, 17 were charged under terrorism legislation while seven were charged with terrorism-related offences in the period ending September 2009.

Possession of an article for terrorism purposes (30%) and fund-raising (14%), are the most common charges under terror laws since 2001.

'Complex threat'

The figures show that since the US terror attacks on 11 September 2001, in the UK 383 suspects have been charged with terrorism-related offences, with 310 prosecutions completed. Of those, 74% were convicted.

Last year there were 29 terror trials, with 86% resulting in a conviction.

Policing and security minister David Hanson said the figures underlined the success of the authorities in disrupting terrorists, and the CPS in prosecuting them.

This shows that we should not have allowed our whole way of life to be changed by intrusive technology like ID cards and body scanners on account of government-manufactured hysteria about terrorism
Alex Deane
Big Brother Watch

"There can be no doubt about the complexity of the threat we face and the aspiration of those intent on committing acts of terrorism.

"That is why the government is committed to wherever possible prosecuting those involved in terrorism. And where we can't prosecute, we seek to deport or disrupt."

But Alex Deane, of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the figures showed that actual terrorism-related charges were rare and demonstrated the relatively-small objective threat they posed.

"This shows that we should not have allowed our whole way of life to be changed by intrusive technology like ID cards and body scanners on account of government-manufactured hysteria about terrorism," he said.

Stop and search

Meanwhile, the figures show the number of stop and searches in the second quarter of 2009-10 was down by 53% on the same period the previous year.

The arrest rate resulting from searches under Section 44, which must take place within a designated area, was just 0.5%, with 965 people detained.

The use of these powers was escalated after the failed terror attack at London's Tiger Tiger nightclub in 2007, resulting in more than 250,000 people being searched in total in the year to April 2009, the highest on record.

In January last year, an Equality and Human Rights Commission report suggested black people in England and Wales were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Asians were twice as likely.

Parliament now needs to do its job, respond to the damning Court of Human Rights judgement and tighten up the law without delay
Corinna Ferguson
Liberty

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson ordered section 44 searches to be scaled back in the face of suggestions they had been alienating people from ethnic minorities in the capital.

'Recruiting radicals'

Section 44 does not require police to have reasonable suspicion that the person being stopped is a terrorist.

In January the European Court of Human Rights ruled police who use anti-terrorism powers to stop and search members of the public without suspicion are acting illegally.

In a surprise ruling, the judges said Section 44 of the Terrorism Act violated individual freedoms.

Lib Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne welcomed the reduction in the use of Section 44 powers.

"The police are getting the message, but ministers should tighten up the law after the critical European ruling. Random stop and search is arbitrary and discriminatory, and acts as a recruiting sergeant for radical Islamism," he said.

Mr Huhne also called for intercept evidence to be used in court.

"This is a better option than undermining civil liberties through detention without charge, control orders and secret evidence," he added.

Corinna Ferguson, a barrister at human rights charity Liberty, welcomed the drop in stop and searches saying it demonstrated a "growing understanding on the part of the police of the dangers of such a sweeping anti-terror power".

"But Parliament now needs to do its job, respond to the damning Court of Human Rights judgement and tighten up the law without delay," she said.



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