Different government, similar restrictions on freedom

4th April, 2011

Two officers brand a s44 stop-and-search form for photographing a London Wall building. © Grant Smith

Less than 2 months after the repeal of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, the coalition government has introduced a section similar in all but name. Section 47a gives a senior police officer an authorisation to stop and search if the officer ‘…reasonably suspects that an act of terrorism will take place.’ This is marginally different from Section 44 in that there must now be a reasonable suspicion that an act of terrorism will take place, previously no reasonable grounds were required.

What is quite apparent in the application of the remedial power is that stop-and-search is still being deployed as a preventative measure against terrorism. This is despite the fact that no stop-and-search detentions under Section 44 resulted in any terrorist prosecutions. Lord Carlile, the government’s independent review of terrorism legislation, has stated that stop-and-search without suspicion was unjustifiable and had produced nil results in terrorism terms.

As photographers working in public places, we are still treated with a suspicion that is undeserved and not experienced by most citizens going about their daily task of work.

Article Written by Grant Smith

 

Motion passed at LPB Branch Meeting 29/03/2011

This Branch is greatly concerned by the introduction of the emergency stop and search power Section 47A of the Terrorism Act 2000.
This Branch agrees that police stop and search powers that do not require suspicion of an individual have and can impact on journalists right to report and record events.
Proposed by Marc Vallée, Seconded by Jonathan Warren – passed overwhelmingly by London Photographers’ branch members.

2 Responses:

  1. Russell says:

    This truly is creeping fascism 2.0

  2. Andrew Wiard says:

    ” Section 47a gives a senior police officer an authorisation to stop and search if the officer ‘…reasonably suspects that an act of terrorism will take place.’ This is marginally different from Section 44……”

    On the contrary, Section 47a is radically different from Section 44. The general anti-terrorist search provisions of Section 44 are now restricted to specific warnings of an expected attack. So, the kind of ludicrous behaviour exhibited in the photo above is highly unlikely. And Section 47a was not, as some feared, used during the recent TUC March for an Alternative. Irrelevant in such circumstances. It is however highly likely Section 47a will be invoked for the forthcoming royal wedding. Because a terrorist attack is highly likely on that occasion. If a day or two before, such an attack is suspected, a senior police officer ( at ACPO level ) will demand it. As just one of a range of preventative measures. And as one who is accustomed to searches, X-ray machines and all, every time I go into Downing Street, even though I am suspected of nothing whatsoever, and on most days a terrorist attack is not imminently expected, I would not object to Section 47a during the royal wedding, if such an attack is indeed expected. And if that is – a further condition of the new legislation, this – searches are considered necessary to prevent the attack.

    The letter of this new legislation is clear, but the spirit in which it will be implemented has yet to be revealed. Is it open to abuse? No doubt. After all we’ve seen over the last few years, are we right to be suspicious? Of course. But we should not jump to conclusions, pre-judge the outcome. If applied in accordance with declared intentions, it will be a great improvement on the Section 44 which it replaces ( and good riddance ).

    Andrew Wiard Vice Chair London Photographers Branch