Stop and search targets Asian people in London

In the past five months police in London have carried out more stop and searches under anti-terrorism powers than in the whole of the previous year. In the year up to April 2007 they carried out 25,374 stops. Between April and August there were 32,395 stops. In July alone, following the failed car bombings on 29 June, there were nearly 11,000 stops. Over a fifth of those stopped were Asian, despite Asian people making up only a tenth of London’s population.

Under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the police may stop and search anyone without suspecting them of a crime, providing they are in an area designated as a potential terrorist target. Currently the whole of London is covered by the powers, meaning the stops can happen anywhere.

The purpose of this is clearly to harass a section of the population and maintain a climate of general fear, rather than to actually prevent crime, with even some of the police questioning the efficacy of high-profile intimidatory tactics that alienate already distrustful communities. Commander Rod Jarman, the Met ‘lead on stop and search’, says that the power is being used to disrupt terrorist planning – ‘Terrorists live, work and blend in to our communities...To complement our covert methods of fighting terrorism we have a more visible presence to deter and disrupt terrorist activity’. However, Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, head of Specialist Operations and expert on counter-terrorism, is quoted as saying he is not sure what purpose the stops serve.

FRFI 199 October / November 2007