[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 11:20 GMT
Police 'did not misuse terror laws'
Police at the arms fair
Some police used powers under the Terrorism Act 2000
Civil rights campaigners have failed to persuade the High Court that anti-terrorism laws were used unlawfully on demonstrators at an international arms show.

In the first case of its kind, pressure group Liberty backed a protester and a journalist who were stopped and searched going to the protests at Europe's largest arms fair in east London's Docklands last month.

Freelance photo-journalist Pennie Quinton, 32, from south-east London and student Kevin Gillan, 26, from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, wanted a judicial review of the way they were treated on 9 September.

But on Friday, Lord Justice Brooke and Mr Justice Maurice Kay rejected the legal challenge.

Great threat

The judges said the use of the random stop-and-search powers and any resulting violation of human rights was justified in the light of the threat of terrorism.

They said they were concerned with "a threat greater than any that this country in general, and its capital city in particular, has ever faced except in time of war".

But the judges gave the civil rights campaigners permission to appeal against their decision to the Court of Appeal because a matter of wide public importance had been raised.

Outside court, Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said they would be appealing, adding: "Ultimately the judges gave deference to the police and home secretary in national security issues."

Protester arrested at the arms fair
Police say 154 protesters were arrested

Owen Davies QC, acting for the pair, argued that the police action had unlawfully deterred members of the public from demonstrating at the fair held in the ExCel Centre.

He said it was likely the police were regularly being authorised to stop and search people under the Terrorism Act 2000 without the public being told.

But the Metropolitan Police's counsel argued there were safeguards in place to ensure stop and search powers were not used "willy nilly".

And Home Secretary David Blunkett's lawyer said that stop and search had been used lawfully.

Terror risk

In making their ruling, the judges said in a joint statement: "Most people realise the contemporary risk they face from terrorism.

"They tolerate the inconvenience they suffer when they are searched and their possessions X-rayed when they enter buildings.

"They will be equally tolerant if the police make it clear that they need to stop and search people and vehicles either on 100% basis or on a random basis away from such buildings because of the threat from terrorism."

During the arms fair 29 people were searched, although Liberty said they have been approached by more than 50 people.

Scotland Yard said it does not have any figures on how many people were searched but said a total of 154 were arrested.


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific