Marshalswick South Focus Team

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New stop & search powers should not replicate ‘Section 44’ abuses

by awitherick on 15 May, 2011

Members of the Liberal Democrats have been working to highlight the restrictions on street photography in public spaces due to counterterrorism laws.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allowed the police to stop and search people without reasonable suspicion in certain conditions, was repealed by the LibDem-Conservative coalition government in January 2011. It was replaced with a more tightly defined power (Section 47a) allowing stop and search powers to be used when a senior police officer has reason to suspect a terrorist attack will take place.

Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman and London MEP Sarah Ludford, who has long supported the ‘I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist!’ campaign and attended their Trafalgar Square flashmob in January 2010, said:

“The coalition’s tighter Section 47a stop & search powers are a big improvement, but we must still make sure that these new powers are not abused in the same way that Labour’s Section 44 was.”

“Despite assurances that these new powers will be temporary and limited to specific situations, that’s what they said about s.44, which was in fact just constantly renewed so that the whole of Greater London became a ‘stop & search without cause’ zone. There’s a danger that the police will fall into the same old bad habits.”

“In addition, over-zealous private security guards must be prevented from misinterpreting antiterrorism laws to harass photographers. The police must take the initiative to provide security guards with proper training and educate them as to the rights of the public.”

This is another area where the Liberal Democrats are distinct from the other parties.

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