Section 44 suspended

We are delighted at this news of the suspension of Section 44. We are sure photographers across the UK are looking forward to freely photographing in a public place without the being bullied by the police and corporate security guards.

The hostile environment created by this law should be the end of it.

Unfortunately there are still a swathe of laws that police can and will still use to harass photographers, most notably Section 43, which is similar to Section 44 but requires an officer to suspect that you are a terrorist and Section 76 which makes it illegal to ‘elicit information about a police officer’ which includes photographing them.

We will also monitor other stop and search powers to see if these are now used against photographers.

The following statement was made by the Home Secretary Theresa May on the 8th July 2010 to the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

On Wednesday of last week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that its judgment in the case of Gillan and Quinton is final. This judgment found that the stop and search powers granted under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 amount to the violation of the right to a private life.

The Court found that the powers are drawn too broadly – at the time of their initial authorisation and when they are used. It also found that the powers contain insufficient safeguards to protect civil liberties.

The Government cannot appeal this judgment – although we would not have done so had we been able. We have always been clear in our concerns about these powers, and they will be included as part of our review of counter-terrorism legislation.

I can therefore tell the House that I will not allow the continued use of section 44 in contravention of the European Court’s ruling and, more importantly, in contravention of the civil liberties of every one of us. But neither will I leave the police without the powers they need to protect us.

Since last Wednesday, I have sought urgent legal advice and consulted police forces. In order to comply with the judgment – but avoid pre-empting the review of counter-terrorism legislation – I have decided to introduce interim guidelines for the police.

I am therefore changing the test for authorisation for the use of section 44 powers from requiring a search to be ‘expedient’ for the prevention of terrorism, to the stricter test of it being ‘necessary’ for that purpose. And, most importantly, I am introducing a new suspicion threshold.

Officers will no longer be able to search individuals using section 44 powers. Instead, they will have to rely on section 43 powers – which require officers to reasonably suspect the person to be a terrorist.

And officers will only be able to use section 44 in relation to the searches of vehicles. I will only confirm these authorisations where they are considered to be necessary, and officers will only be able to use them when they have ‘reasonable suspicion’.

These interim measures will bring section 44 stop and search powers fully into line with the European Court’s judgment. They will provide operational clarity for the police. And they will last until we have completed our review of counter-terrorism laws.

Mr Speaker, the first duty of government is to protect the public. But that duty must never be used as a reason to ride roughshod over our civil liberties. I believe that the interim proposals I have set out today give the police the support they need and protect those ancient rights.

I commend this statement to the House.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police Press Bureau

Following today’s statement by the Home Secretary in relation to new guidelines around the use of stop and search under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 the Metropolitan Police Service will not seek to renew the current authorisation to use the power at this stage.

The current authority expires at 23.59 hours tonight (Thursday 8 July) and Metropolitan Police officers will not use the power after this time until further notice.

Public safety remains our top priority and we will continue to use all other powers available to us to keep London a hostile environment for terrorists.

Police officers continue to have the power to stop and search anyone who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

We will continue to work closely with the Home Office and other police forces throughout the ongoing review of CT legislation.

The World TonightBBC Radio 4 (Starts at 27m 37s)

Rules on stop and search changedBBC News

Anti-terror stop and search powers to be scrappedThe Guardian

Section 44 is dead, says Home OfficeBritish Journal of Photography

Stop-and-search criteria tightenedPress Association

9 thoughts on “Section 44 suspended

  1. Pingback: Section 44 dies a gradual death « Harpymarx

  2. Andy Barton

    So, who is going to be the first poor, unfortunate soul who has to test the meaning of the word “reasonably”…?

    Reply
  3. WokStation

    “Metropolitan Police officers will not use the power after this time until further notice.”

    Of course they won’t, THEY DON’T HAVE THE POWER TO DO SO!

    I even question the legality of using it today, as the Home Sec suspended it with immediate effect as far as I’m aware.

    Reply
  4. Mick

    At least we are going in the right direction with this statement, However, It is interesting that the MET is the only force mentioned…surely a message from the Home Secretary should now go immediately to all forces in UK

    Reply
  5. tony pitchford

    Yay!!!! some sense at last.
    Does this mean we can all start to respect the police now? or will they still abuse their powers, by forgeting 2 simple facts, a) they are public servants, b) we are the public!!

    Reply

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