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Stop and search powers still open to abuse

18 March 2011

The UK government has laid a written ministerial statement to both houses of Parliament that brings back stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 from today. The NUJ has condemned government moves to bring back the discredited stop and search powers.

The powers were suspended last year whilst a review was carried out after widespread condemnation of their misuse, which included numerous complaints from photographers and other journalists being prevented from carrying out their work.

The NUJ fears the new powers will again lead to photographers and other journalists facing unwarranted harassment and stop and search whilst documenting protests and social unrest.

Documentary photographer Marc Vallée has set out the details of the new powers on his blog. He wrote:

"The remedial order replaces Sections 44 to 47 of the Terrorism Act 2000 with Section 47A. Section 47A will give a 'senior police officer' the power to make an authorisation in 'relation to a specified area or place' if the officer 'reasonably suspects that an act of terrorism will take place' and 'considers that the authorisation is necessary to prevent such an act'."

Under Section 44, the police had to go to the Home Office for authorisation now the police will have a Code of Practice to follow.

Under Section 47A a "constable in uniform" will have the power "to stop a pedestrian" in the specified area and to search them and "anything carried by them".

This emergency measure brings back stop and search powers that could impact on photographers and journalists right to report and the right of a citizen to make a picture in a public place.

The timing should not go unnoticed, the largest protest against the governments austerity measures and enforced transfer of billions of pounds from the public sector to the private sector will be taking place on Saturday 26 March.

Indiscriminate stop and search powers did not stop a single terror attack against Britain. What it did do was impact on hundreds of thousands of lives across the country.

In January, Marc Vallée told the British Journal of Photography:

"The devil is always in the detail, and after reading the Home Office review, it is clear that the coalition government is planning to give the police new stop-and-search powers to get around the European Court of Human Rights ruling. I do not think for one minute that these new powers will protect photographers from harassment and abuse from the police on the streets of Britain, far from it."

Tags: , marc vallée, echr, stop and search, terrorism act, police, photographers, protests