Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 13:18 UK

Police terror searches suspended

Terrorism stop-and-searches have been suspended in Hampshire after police used the powers almost 3,500 times but made no terror-related arrests.

Hampshire Constabulary used section 44 of the Terrorism Act to stop people 3,481 times in 2007/2008 and held 36 suspects for non-terrorist activities.

It said it wanted "to be more in line with other forces".

Thames Valley Police used the powers 244 times and made 40 non-terrorism arrests.

Assistant Chief Constable David Pryde, of Hampshire police, said: "After [a] review, we determined that it would be appropriate to be more in line with other forces.

'Prone to abuse'

"We now have suspended Section 44 Stop and Search until such time as the perceived threat is raised to the highest level."

The ACC added that the figures reflected several factors including the car bomb at Glasgow Airport on 30 June 2007, when the terrorism threat level was raised to critical nationally.

Ministry of Defence Police Section 44 Stop and Search incidents are also recorded under Hampshire.

There are several military installations in the southern county.

Legal director of Liberty, James Welch, welcomed the move.

"Parliament now needs to follow the police's lead and tighten up the infamous section 44 power that has been so prone to abuse in recent years," he said.

Terror law watchdog

The statistics also revealed another neighbouring force, Surrey Police, used the powers 2,559 times between 2007 and 2008 and recorded no terrorism arrests.

Home Office figures show 124,687 of these type of searches were carried out in England and Wales in 2007/08 - compared with 41,924 the previous year.

About 87% of them occurred in the Metropolitan Police area.

Last month Lord Carlile, QC, the government's terror law watchdog, warned of "poor or unnecessary" use of Section 44 in his annual report.

He also warned there was little or no evidence that blanket use of Section 44 searches had the potential to prevent a terror attack.

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