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PSNI to suspend its stop and search powers after ruling

By Adrian Rutherford

The PSNI is today expected to suspend its use of controversial powers allowing officers to stop and search people suspected of being involved in terrorist activity.

It comes a week after a European court ruled it was illegal to stop and search suspects under terrorism laws after rejecting an appeal from the Home Office.

The move to suspend the powers is expected to be confirmed by the PSNI later today, with the Home Secretary Theresa May also due to make a statement.

Under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, officers can stop and search anyone in a designated area without having to show reasonable suspicion.

But police have been accused of abusing the powers, which resulted in more than 10,000 searches in Northern Ireland last year.

While Sinn Fein has welcomed the move, there are warnings from the DUP that it is a backward step in the fight against the dissident threat in Northern Ireland.

Policing Board member Jimmy Spratt said: “I am shocked — I think it is appalling. In terms of Northern Ireland, given the dissident threat, we need to have some sort of stop and search powers.

“It is a backward step in terms of the fight against dissident terrorism in Northern Ireland.”

However, Sinn Féin Policing Board member Martina Anderson said the use of the act was |illegal and detrimental to building community relations.

“There was a good possibility that, had this continued, the PSNI would face litigation in the courts,” she said. “The prospect of having to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation is something the PSNI can’t afford, given the cuts it is facing.”

The MLA said there was no evidence that stop and search was an effective tool against the current terror threat.

“When you look at the number of people stopped and searched, compared with the number of people who had been arrested as a result, there is a major difference,” she added.

“You are talking about thousands and thousands stopped |and searched, yet the number arrested as a result was single fingers, and many if not all were released.”

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