Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stop and search

With the latest ruling from Europe regarding Stop and Search I felt it worth while recapping exactly what the problem is.

Firstly such actions can only be taken in a specific area as designated by a senior officer this is then ratified by the Home Secretary. However the order comes into effect as soon as the senior officer orders it and if the HS subsequently denies it any action taken between those two points in time is still deemed legal.

Secondly although there is a time-limit on how long such an order can exist there's no cool-down time for another to be created. So there's nothing stopping a senior officer from taking out another as soon as the first expires.

Couple the two together and you can in theory (and in practice apparently in some parts of London) have a continuous applied order to an area even if the HS rejects it each time; and it's still legal.


Orphi said...

Ooo, that's cute. An indefinite order that doesn't need to be authorised. Cute indeed.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding this, but I was under the impression that the police already have the power to stop and search people? (And always have done.)

FlipC said...

Yes; in theory an officer who keeps requesting the order and keeps being denied will get a talking to, but it's not a legal thing.

The difference between the two is the reason for the stop and search. An officer can do so at any time if they are acting under reasonable suspicion, under the Terrorism Act they can just do it if the coin comes down heads.

Orphi said...

So you can stop somebody for absolutely no reason at all?

And this prevents terrorism how exactly?

Seems to be that stopping people for no good reason is just a waste of police time, and if you have a reason to stop somebody, you don't need the terrorism act.

FlipC said...

I suppose the theory is that previously the only way that the terrorists would be caught is if they engaged in behaviour deemed suspicious. With this order anyone can be stopped which would deter anyone targeting that area. Sort of like random police patrols over scheduled ones.

Orphi said...

Systematic random searches might do something useful. This law sounds like the cops are just going to stop people if they feel bored or something…

FlipC said...

It does mean more paperwork for them so they're not going to do it for kicks. But what is the point is they seem to abusing it.

Firstly in renewing it each time it runs out (it has a time-limit so is legally meant as a temporary measure)

Secondly in targeting those they don't like. In the case that came to the European Court those protesting an arms fair.

As you say I too can understand random searches being useful, but it currently relies on the police not to abuse their powers. Hopefully both I and the media have shown that some really like using these powers or that they don't even know or lie about what they can do.

Orphi said...

Damn, if you can't even trust the police themselves, we really are screwed. o_O

Then again, even without this law, a copper can walk up to you and search you. It's not like you can say “actually, you can't do that” because then they'll just say ”actually, you're nicked”. You can't argue with the police.

FlipC said...

It's a big tangled ball of problems. The first being that most people including those applying it don't know the law because there's so much of it.

Second is the point made out in the European ruling is that so much particular of recent legislation doesn't possess limitations, do a search for mini-enabling act.

Next up is that despite the original intention that the police would simply be citizens paid to keep order by the government, they've been given powers to help them do that (fine) while at the same time certain powers have been taken from us.

Anyway onto the next bit about you saying no to the police. Yep you can do that, and this ties in with no-body knowing the law. Sure they could nick you, but it's going to do them harm if the only reason they've done so is because you refused an illegal stop and search request.

See this is the difference between the two powers. If an officer acting normally wants to stop and search you they have to provide a reason to do so (that's the suspicion part) if they don't it's illegal. If they use the order they can just stop and search you end story.

As I've written elsewhere, if they start hassling you (and to emphasise it's only a minority) ask them to explain which Act and which Part of said Act you're violating. If they can't come up with one, or if you know it doesn't apply you can walk away.