Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 16:40 UK

Terror powers 'eroding liberty'

Mr Catt believes the Terrorism Act has "eroded the liberty of the individual"

An 84-year-old activist questioned under the Terrorism Act while wearing an anti-Tony Blair T-shirt believes the powers are "persecuting innocents".

John Catt, from Sussex, was protesting outside Brighton's Labour Party Conference in 2005 when he was stopped and searched under the 2000 act.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission found his arrest unlawful.

Mr Catt's comments came after Hampshire police suspended use of Section 44 after making 3,481 searches in 2007/8.

The force said it made the decision to be more in line with other forces.

Mr Catt, from Withdean, was wearing a T-shirt containing the slogan "Bush, Blair, Sharon to be tried for war crimes, torture and human rights abuse, the leaders of rogue states", when he was stopped by a Sussex Police officer.

Police National Computer

He said Hampshire police's suspension of the use of the Section 44 powers was "a good thing but it is too late, the damage has been done".

He said: "People like myself are not terrorists and that is what was going through my mind [during the stop and search].

"You cannot protect any country by using oppressive measures - what happens is you just alienate people."

I thought to myself, what kind of world are we living in?
John Catt

Following the Brighton incident, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) ruled Sussex Police acted unlawfully towards Mr Catt.

In response, the force said the commission's findings would be "acted upon" and added that the officer "believed in good faith that the stop and search was authorised by law".

A Sussex Police spokeswoman added: "The decision to put an 'of interest' notice marker on Mr Catts vehicle has been reviewed by the Sussex Police, Professional Standards Department as well as the IPCC.

"In both reviews the complaint has been found to be unsubstantiated.

"The use of vehicle markers is a legitimate and valuable police tactic, used to prevent and detect crime and disorder.

"Sussex Police acts in accordance with the Police National Computer manual and regularly reviews markers which have been placed onto vehicles."

In May, Mr Catt featured in BBC Two's Who's Watching You in relation to the Automatic Number Plate Recognition system (ANPR).

Anti-terror unit

ANPR can tell police when a vehicle has been stolen or involved in crime by scanning car number plates and checking them against records from the DVLA, the Police National Computer and local intelligence computer systems.

Police say vehicles are only stopped when it is believed an offence has been committed, or when there is a known police interest in the vehicle.

However Sussex Police put a "marker" on Mr Catt 's car after he attended an anti-war demonstration outside a factory in Brighton.

He was subsequently pulled over by an anti-terror unit during a trip to London.

"I was threatened under the Terrorist Act," he said. "I thought to myself, what kind of world are we living in?"

Mr Catt added: "The Terrorism Act has eroded and destroyed the liberty of the individual in this country."

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Police terror searches suspended
15 Jul 09 |  Hampshire
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26 Aug 08 |  Sussex

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