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Stop & Search Illegal Says European Court

12/01/10

PSNIThe ruling made today [Tuesday] by the European Court of Human Rights in relation to stop and search powers exercised under Section 44 of the British government’s ‘Terrorism Act’ must be immediately applicable to the Six Counties éirígí general secretary Breandán Mac Cionnaith has said.

The Strasbourg court had been hearing a case involving two protesters stopped near an arms fair in London in 2003. The European Court, in a judgment issued earlier today, stated that “the Court considers that the powers of authorisation and confirmation as well as those of stop and search under sections 44 and 45 of the 2000 (Terrorism) Act are neither sufficiently circumscribed nor subject to adequate legal safeguards against abuse. They are not, therefore, ‘in accordance with the law’.”

The Court also stated that that the powers constituted a violation of Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights. The Court also stated that there is a clear risk of arbitrariness in the granting of such a broad discretion to police.

Mac Cionnaith said: “This ECHR ruling is extremely pertinent for the Six Counties where there has been a dramatic rise in the use of repressive stop and search powers under Section 44.

“The ruling comes just two months after it was revealed that there were more than 12,000 stop & search incidents in the Six Counties under the British government’s ‘Terrorism Act’ and ‘Justice & Security Act’ between July and September last year. Over 10,000 stop and searches were conducted under Section 44 – the same power which this European Court ruling relates to.

“The figures on stop & search between July and September were three times the number for the previous quarter. Those figures and the European Court ruling clearly demonstrate the illegal and arbitrary reality of British policing in the Six Counties. It is one that is far removed from what was promised by the nationalist parties who took the decision to endorse the PSNI.”

Mac Cionnaith continued: “It should also be noted that the ECHR stated that there is a further risk that such a widely framed stop and search power could be misused against demonstrators and protestors in breach of Article 10 and/or 11 of the Convention. That was clearly the case in relation to the PSNI’s actions in response to a totally peaceful protest organised by éirígí at the British army’s telecommunications post on the Black Mountain, outside Belfast, in November last year. The PSNI used these now discredited stop and search powers in an attempt to harass and intimidate those taking part in the protest – a fact which the PSNI sought to deny at the time.

“In light of today’s ruling, we would urge all persons subjected to stop and search by the PSNI under Section 44 from today onwards to immediately contact a solicitor with a view to challenging the legality of their detention and search.”

 

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