Friday, November 02, 2007

Police use 'anti- terror' laws to stop-and-search 44,543 people. How many convictions? None.

Only one in every 400 stop and searches carried out under sweeping anti-terrorism laws leads to an arrest, and of those, none has ever led to the conviction of a single person for so-called 'terrorist' offences, triggering fresh pressure on the government and police over the controversial tactic.

One force, City of London, carried out 6,846 stops of pedestrians and vehicles without finding enough evidence to justify even a single arrest.

Official government figures covering 2005/6, the first since the July 7 2005 bombings on London, show a big increase in the use of the power, with Asian people bearing the brunt.

Stops under the Terrorism Act 2000 rely more on an officer's discretion than other powers to search, which require reasonable suspicion. The number of stops under terrorism laws in 2005/6 showed a 34% rise on the previous year to 44,543. Asians faced an increase of 84%, black people an increase of 51%, searches of "other" ethnic groups rose 36% and white people faced a 24% increase.

The biggest increases were in London, with the Metropolitan police carrying out more than half of all terrorism stop and searches and the City of London force 15%.

Experts believe anti-terrorism stop and searches have not led to a single person being caught who was later convicted of a terrorist offence.

In the 44,543 stops in England and Wales, there were 105 arrests. Out of every 400 people stopped 399 were let go straight away.

Ben Bowling, professor of criminal justice at King's College London, said: "These powers are being used indiscriminately with a minimal result. The consequence of that is a loss in public confidence and a drop of support among those stopped without reason for the police."

The figures showed that the racial divide in stop and search aimed at stopping non-terrorist crime also became starker. Black people were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by police.

The number of stop and searches carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which legally require reasonable suspicion, hit their highest level in seven years. In 2005/6 police carried out 878,153, a 3.4% increase on the previous year, with drugs being the main reason given by officers for searches.

Pedo Police Officer escapes jail

Mark Bretherick's former partner had discovered he used internet child porn sites, Swansea Crown Court was told.

The 33-year-old, from near Welshpool, received a three-year supervision order after the judge was shown the image.

He was also put on the sex offenders register for five years and will have to complete a sex offenders programme.

Judge Christopher Morton decided Bretherick was not a danger to the public.

Bretherick had admitted a charge of possessing an indecent image of a child in September on the eve of a jury trial.

An indecent thumbnail photograph was found on a Rock laptop, but it showed that the full-size photograph had been on the laptop at some time

At the same hearing it was directed that 17 other charges should all remain on file.

Jim Davis, prosecuting, told the court on Friday the images were found on two laptops in Bretherick's possession.

One of the two laptops held just one image which it could be clearly proved had been downloaded after the law change.

Mr Davis told how the police were alerted to Bretherick's activities by his estranged fiancée.

She had been packing up her things in the house they had shared in December 2005 after they had decided to separate when she had discovered documents in Bretherick's handwriting listing illicit websites, he said.

"As a result of finding that document the police were informed and his laptops seized," Mr Davis said.

"An indecent thumbnail photograph was found on a Rock laptop, but it showed that the full-size photograph had been on the laptop at some time.

"The full image itself had been deleted."

Bretherick - who had been based at Newtown - had voluntarily resigned from his job and felt only "deep deep shame", the court heard.

Police manufacture evidence against Menezes

Police have been accused of manipulating a photo of Jean Charles de Menezes so it could be compared to that of one of the 21/7 bomb plotters.

The image had been "stretched and sized" to form a composite image of the Brazilian and Hussain Osman to show the jury, prosecutors told the Old Bailey.

Mr de Menezes, 27, was shot seven times in the head on a train at Stockwell Tube station on 22 July 2005.

The Met Police said the composite picture was created to illustrate the difficulties officers would have had in differentiating between the two men.

But Clare Montgomery QC, prosecuting, told the court it had been altered "by either stretching or resizing so the face ceases to have its correct proportions".

Forensics consultant Michael George told the court that the police composite appeared to have a "greater definition" than the two images used to produce it. "Making the image brighter has changed the image".

He produced an alternative composite, which was shown to the jury, in which the two faces had different skin tones and their mouths and noses were not aligned.

The judge, Mr Justice Henriques, told the jury that a "serious allegation has been made that a picture has been manipulated so as to mislead".

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