|The Guardian reports that David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has called for “further reform” to the Schedule 7 stop and search powers and ports and airports “to include the introduction of a suspicion threshold …and the improvement of safeguards in relation to private electronic data and other sensitive material.”|
The detention earlier this year of David Miranda, partner of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, has invited further scrutiny of the counter-terrorism powers. The parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights urged a curtailment of the powers after deeming them “too powerful”. The committee also called for the introduction of better data collection with the recording of self-declared religious identity of individuals subjected to the powers.
Advice offered by Anderson in a supplementary note of evidence to the Home Affairs select committee suggests a person to be searched and questioned without reasonable suspicion for a maximum of one hour, after which, according to provisions tabled in the Anti-Social, Crime and Policing Bill, an individual is formally detained.
The JCHR report iterates the same point stating “We recommend that the reasonable suspicion threshold be introduced at the point at which the person being examined is formally detained, which the Bill requires to happen after an hour of questioning."
Anderson supports his caution in relation to the ‘reasonable suspicion’ requirement stating:
“My exposure at a variety of ports to the operational constraints under which ports officers operate inclines me, on balance, towards rejecting the reasonable suspicion standard as a condition for detention”.
The Guardian report notes support for the standard stating “[Anderson] stopped short of advising "reasonable grounds for suspicion" before detention, as some campaigners have sought.”
The use of stop and search powers at ports and airports have invited a number of criticisms over the discriminatory and disproportionate use of the powers, as well as poor oversight on implementation and periodic review.
The IPCC recently announced its decision to take the Metropolitan Police to court for the harassment British Muslims have experienced at airports. Schedule 7 has additionally been in the spotlight for its exploitation by security offices as a recruitment tool. A number of British Muslims have complained of being harassed after being stopped and questioned by police at a UK airport. One such, Asif Ahmed was repeatedly harassed by security agents seeking to recruit him. During one of his detentions, Ahmed was asked by agents to consider “helping us out”.