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Police powers to stop and search suspects are to be more tightly controlled

Police powers to stop and search suspects are to be more tightly controlled

Police powers to stop and search suspects are to be more tightly controlled

Police powers to stop and search suspects are to be more tightly controlled after the Government confirmed plans to reform the Terrorism Act.

The Home Office has agreed to overhaul legislation after stop and search powers were deemed illegal by the European Court of Human Rights last year.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said the changes will extend to Northern Ireland where police used the power nearly 10,000 times in 2009.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows officers to act without reasonable suspicion, was an important tool to combat dissident republican groups opposed to the peace process. But the power had been used across the UK.

Critics argued that the stop and search rules could not be used as an alternative to traditional methods of policing.

Mr Paterson said that in future prior authorisation by a senior police officer, confirmed by the Secretary of State, will be required before searching a person without reasonable suspicion.

He confirmed plans to change the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007. In a written statement tabled at Westminster Mr Paterson said: "Following the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Review the Home Secretary decided to replace section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 with a more tightly circumscribed power.

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"Consistent with those changes, I have decided to make a similar amendment to a power of stop and search in Northern Ireland."

He added: "In due course I will exercise the power in section 34 of the 2007 Act to make a code of practice governing the exercise of these powers. Powers of stop and search for the military under the 2007 Act will not be amended."

In Northern Ireland the police faced accusations of over-using the power. In 2008/09 the PSNI used the UK-wide legislation on nearly 10,000 occasions. The figure was three times higher than the previous year.


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