Page last updated at 16:59 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 17:59 UK

Anti-terror searches scaled down

Armed police at Parliament
The use of Section 44 is to be restricted to iconic sites

Police in London are to reduce their use of stop and search powers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Its use in future will be restricted to "iconic" sites, such as Parliament and Buckingham Palace, the force said.

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

The Metropolitan Police have faced criticism that their use of Section 44 has been alienating people in the capital from ethnic minorities.

In other cases police officers will be told to use Section 43 of the act. It requires them to have reasonable suspicion any person being stopped and searched is a terrorist.

The Metropolitan Police used Section 44 more than 170,000 times in 2008 to stop people in London - compared to almost 72,000 anti-terror stop and searches carried out in the previous year.

This power reverses a fundamental principle in that no suspicion of wrongdoing is required
Assistant Commissioner John Yates

The force said anti-terror searches had been more widely used since car bomb attacks on a nightclub in the West End and Glasgow Airport in June 2007.

Of all the stops in 2008, only 65 led to arrests for terror offences.

More than 60% of those stopped were white, about the same as the proportion of white people in London, figures showed.

The Met's head of counter-terrorism, Assistant Commissioner John Yates, said in a report to the Metropolitan Police Authority: "This power reverses a fundamental principle in that no suspicion of wrongdoing is required.

"The power is seen as controversial and has the potential to have a negative impact, particularly on minority communities."

'Trust undermined'

An Equality and Human Rights Commission spokesman said: "In January our report 'Police and Racism' highlighted the disproportionate number of black and Asian people being stopped and searched in most force areas and the negative effect this has had on community relations.

"In England and Wales, black people are still seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.

"The commission's report highlighted that these differences cannot be justified by detections, since only around one in six people in all racial groups are then arrested."

Civil liberties campaign group Liberty cautiously welcomed the Met's plans.

"It is clear that the misuse of these powers against peaceful protesters and their disproportionate use on ethnic minorities has undermined trust and confidence," said Isabella Sankey from the organisation.

The new tactics will be tested first in Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Brent and Newham, with the Met planning to roll them out across London later in the summer.

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