Scrap British police 'stop and search' power

Passed in 2000, the law allows British police to stop and search anyone in London without giving a reason.

  • close
    A demonstrator last week gestured at police during an English Defence League (EDL) protest march in London. British law gives police the power to stop and search anyone in the city without giving a reason.
    Luke MacGregor/Reuters
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Lord Carlisle of Berriew, Britain's one-man watchdog snapping at the heels of anti-terrorist legislation, has called on the government's stop and search system to be scrapped because it is poisoning relations between the police and the public. Like the system of criminal records checks which treats every parent helping out with school activities as a paedophile, it should go.

The present stop and search system was introduced under the Terrorism Act 2000. It gave the police powers to stop and search people, without having to give reasons, in areas specified by ministers. You might have thought the idea was to stop people with rucksacks who were eyeing up nuclear power stations or water treatment plants. But within weeks of the Act being passed, ministers declared the whole of London a stop and search area. So police can now stop anyone anywhere the metropolis, at any time, with no reason. As indeed, they do.

Of course, the bureaucratic mentality makes it worse, because in order to prove that they are not discriminating against particular groups, the police have to fill out yellow forms with your name, address, sex, height, race and much more on it. The result is that what ought to be a friendly enquiry ('You've been standing outside this government office quite a time, sir, can I ask your purpose?' 'Oh, simple as that, eh?' Very good, sir, thank you, have a nice day.') into something adversarial – and where the police have all the muscle: refuse to give your details or tell them not to be so daft and boil their heads, and you will be arrested. No wonder that the public now see the police not as their servants and protectors, but as agents of a bully state.

Add/view comments on this post.

-------------------------

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link above.

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...