Terrorism: Stop and Search

House of Lords written statement – made on 10th June 2010.

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Photo of Baroness Neville-Jones Baroness Neville-Jones Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I wish to inform the House of errors relating to those periods in the past which have recently been identified following an internal review of the authorisation process for the stop and search powers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has undertaken work in relation to a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act concerning authorisations for the Section 44 stop and search powers. In the course of reviewing its Section 44 records, the MPS identified an authorisation from April 2004 which had not been confirmed by a Home Office Minister within the statutory 48-hour deadline for confirmation. Subsequent investigations revealed that approximately 840 were stopped and searched in the relevant area during the period of the invalid authorisation. The MPS is urgently considering what steps can reasonably be taken to contact those individuals involved.

As a result of this discovery, the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT) in the Home Office undertook a review in May 2010 of all Section 44 authorisations since the Terrorism Act came into force on 19 February 2001, in the course of which a number of other errors came to light. I have to inform the House that it appears that stop-and-search powers have been used unlawfully by a number of police forces on a number of occasions. The Home Office has written to each of the police forces concerned to alert them to these errors and those forces are now in the process of assessing how many individuals were stopped and searched in the periods of invalid authorisations. They will do their best to contact those involved. To summarise these errors, on 33 occasions authorisations were specified to be for 29 days, and two occasions when the authorisations were specified to be for 30 days, whereas the statutory maximum period is 28 days. In addition, there was one further case (as well as the MPS incident in April 2004) where ministerial confirmation for the authorisation was not provided within the statutory 48-hour deadline. All of these cases appear to have been as a result of administrative errors which were not identified at the time by either the police or the Home Office. A full breakdown is included in the attached table.

Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has been informed.

Three episodes of errors taking place in the Section 44 authorisation process have previously been brought to the attention of the House. For completeness, these are also included in the attached table bringing the total number of such cases to 40. Home Office officials are working closely with the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) with the aim of ensuring there are no incidents in future. Officials will keep Lord Carlile and me informed and I will report back to the House as necessary.

I am aware that there is considerable concern about the operation of Section 44 stop-and-search powers going beyond these authorisation errors. The Government are committed to a wider review of counterterrorism legislation, including the operation of the Section 44 stop-and-search provisions. While I take some reassurance from the fact that no errors have occurred since December 2008 when the authorisation process was tightened, I want to assure the House that there will be utmost vigilance in future. It is with the need for this in mind that I have instructed Home Office officials unconnected with the administrative process to conduct the internal review of procedures.

Table of Erroneous Authorisations

Authorisations over the statutory 28 day period

Kent Constabulary
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
19 February 2001 08.00 hrs 18 March 2001 19 March 2001
11 April 2001 08.35 hrs 08 May 2001 09 May 2001
Sussex Police
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
05 March 2001 11.50 hrs 01 April 2001 02 April 2001
07 September 2001 12.00 hrs 04 October 2001 05 October 2001
19 December 2001 15.30 hrs 15 January 2001 16 January 2001
15 January 2007* 09.15 hrs 11 February 2007 12 February 2007
12 March 2007* 14.21 hrs 08 April 2007 9 April 2007

*The two occasions in January and March 2007 were addressed by Lord Carlile in his report for that year.

Durham Constabulary
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
03 April 2001 09.30 hrs 30 April 2001 01 May 2001
Cleveland Police
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
02 April 2001 10.30 hrs 29 April 2001 30 April 2001
City of London Police
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
29 April 2001 12.00 hrs 26 May 2001 27 May 2001
21 June 2001 12.00 hrs 18 July 2001 19 July 2001
20 July 2001 11.20 hrs 16 August 2001 17 August 2001
17 August 2001 12.00 hrs 13 September 2001 14 September 2001
Thames Valley Police
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
29 April 2001 12.00 hrs 26 May 2001 27 May 2001
25 May 2001 12.00 hrs 21 June 2001 22 June 2001
22 June 2001 08.05 hrs 19 July 2001 20 July 2001
20 July 2001 08.04 hrs 16 August 2001 17 August 2001
17 August 2001 08.01 hrs 13 September 2001 14 September 2001
24 June 2002 11.33 hrs 21 July 2002 22 July 2002
Metropolitan Police Service
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
29 April 2001 12.00 hrs 26 May 2001 27 May 2001
25 May 2001 12.00 hrs 21 June 2001 22 June 2001
22 June 2001 12.00 hrs 19 July 2001 20 July 2001
20 July 2001 13.00 hrs 16 August 2001 17 August 2001
17 August 2001 12.00 hrs 13 September 2001 14 September 2001
North Yorkshire Police
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
21 September 2001 12.00 hrs 18 October 2001 19 October 2001
19 October 2001 11.45 hrs 15 November 2001 16 November 2001
16 November 2001 12.00 hrs 13 December 2001 14 December 2001
Hampshire
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
02 September 2002 10.25 hrs 29 September 2002 30 September 2002
Bedfordshire Police
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
15 November 2002 10.00 hrs 12 December 2002 13 December 2002
Essex Police
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
20 October 2003 08.05 hrs 16 November 2003 17 November 2003
Greater Manchester Police
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
19 January 2004 09.30 hrs 15 February 2004 16 February 2004
16 August 2007* 15.20 hrs 12 September 2007 14 September 2007
13 September 2007* 12.00 hrs 10 October 2007 11 October 2007

*The two occasions in August and September 2007 were addressed by Lord Carlile in his report for that year.

Fife Constabulary
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
31 March 2008 16.43 hrs 27 April 2008 28 April 2008
South Wales Police
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Statutory End Date Actual End Date
6 February 2007* 13.50 hrs 05 March 2007 7 March 2007

*The occasion in February 2007 was addressed by Lord Carlile in his report for that year and the Government Response to his report. The Government response also highlighted an incident in 2005 where South Wales did not have an authorisation in place between midnight on 21 June 2005 and 09.25 hrs on 24 June 2005.

Authorisations not confirmed within the 48-hour statutory deadline.

Metropolitan Police Service
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Ministerial Confirmation Date/Time Actual time taken for Ministerial Confirmation
2 April 2004 07.30 hrs 4 April 2004 - 11.10hrs 51 hours & 40 minutes
Thames Valley Police
Authorisation Date Authorisation Time Ministerial Confirmation Date/Time Actual time taken for Ministerial Confirmation
29 November 2006 15.00 hrs 1 December 2006 - 15.15hrs 48 hours & 15 minutes

Use of Section 44 Powers where a valid authorisation was not in place-as previously advised to Parliament.

Sussex Police
Authorisation Date(1) Authorisation Expiry Date Number of days where power could have been used
June 2003 ~June 2003 -
3 September 2007 25 September 2007 23
South Wales
Authorisation Date(2) Authorisation Expiry Date Number of days where power could have been used
22 June 2005 24 June 2005 2

Total forces: 14

Total incidents: 40

(1) The dates indicated here (for both Sussex Police and South Wales Police) are the dates from which the authorisations would commence if they had been submitted.

(2) The dates indicated here (for both Sussex Police and South Wales Police) are the dates from which the authorisations would commence if they had been submitted.