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Police powers: Government faces calls to put an end to 'stop and search'

The Government is under pressure to put an end to anti-terror legislation which allows police officers the right to stop and search without reasonable grounds, providing they make an appropriate application to the Home Office.

The powers were brought in last year as an amendment to the Terrorism Act 2006. Section 47a replaced the highly controversial section 44 powers, which were ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights after a decade of use.

Under section 47a police can apply to the Home Office for authorisation to conduct searches in an area if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that an act of terrorism may take place. If successful, they may then stop and search any person in that area without due reason.

The Home Secretary has previously defended the powers, on the basis that there is a high risk of terror threat currently. However, research has revealed that since last spring no applications have been made by the police to the Home Office under the section. This has prompted some commentators to query whether the powers are needed at all.

Despite this, plans are afoot to include the powers in new legislation about to come before parliament in time for the Olympics in London this summer. The Protection of Freedoms Bill will include section 47a police powers.

The Olympics is set to bring with it one of the largest mobilisations of police and military forces seen since the Second World War, all geared towards keeping London safe.

Photojournalist Guy Smallman has decided the stress and pressure will be too much, and has announced that he will skip the Olympics altogether.

"I am not usually a quitter in the face of authoritarian bureaucracy. But the sheer inconvenience of trying to haul a camera bag around my home city, when it is populated by several thousand paranoid spooks, does not appeal in the slightest. So instead I have decided to join the exodus and spend that time working somewhere less militarised. Like Kandahar for example," he joked.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

Stop and search (FindLaw)

Find a criminal solicitor near you (FindLaw)