Arbitrary detentions illegal, says human rights court
Arbitrary detentions illegal, says human rights court

The European Court of Human Rights yesterday [Wednesday] ruled that British police powers to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion are illegal.

Sinn Fein said that the PSNI should now suspend the use of the relevant ‘Section 44’ powers in the north of Ireland.

The European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday said that two people from London had their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights violated.

This violation was a direct result of the two being stopped and questioned in 2003 under Section 44 of the British government’s “Terrorism” Act.

The PSNI used the same legislation to stop thousands of people last year, most of who were not arrested or charged.

The ruling comes just two months after it was revealed that there were more than 12,000 stop and search incidents in the Six Counties under the ‘Terrorism Act’ and ‘Justice and Security Act’.

Over 10,000 stop and searches were conducted in the Six Counties under Section 44, with a tripling of the figures between July and September over the previous quarter.

Daithi McKay, a Sinn Fein member of the Policing Board. said that many of those stopped and harassed by the PSNI were stopped because of their political opinion or background.

“This abuse of power amounts to political policing and damages the credibility of police forces that use them as well as community relations,” he said.

“This is a view that is shared even with the British Government’s own independent reviewer of this legislation.

“Already in England it is accepted that the use of section 44 powers has a negative impact on relations between the community and the Police. The Metropolitan police reviewed the practice of using Section 44 powers and announced their intention to cease their use.

“It has since been revealed that police in Hampshire, in England , are to follow suit and suspend the use of Section 44 powers after figures showed no arrests under Section 44 were made despite a huge increase in the numbers of stop and searches.

“The PSNI should now review its use of Section 44 in light of these facts and the ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that it is illegal. The continued use of this legislation, which allows police officers to stop people “without reasonable suspicion”, is a flagrant abuse of human rights.”

The ECHR ruling must be immediately applicable to the Six Counties, eirigi general secretary Breandan Mac Cionnaith has said.

“This ECHR ruling is extremely pertinent for the Six Counties where there has been a dramatic rise in the use of repressive stop and search powers under Section 44,” he said.

He said the figures on the use of stop ad search “clearly demonstrate the illegal and arbitrary reality of British policing in the Six Counties. It is one that is far removed from what was promised by the nationalist parties who took the decision to endorse the PSNI.”

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