|No terror arrests in 100,000 police counter-terror searches, figures show
Just 504 people out of 101,248 searches under counter-terror powers last year were held for any offence, Home Office reveals
Guardian | October 28, 2010
More than 100,000 people were stopped and searched by police under counter-terrorism powers last year but none of them were arrested for terrorism-related offences, according to Home Office figures published today.
The statistics show that 504 people out of the 101,248 searches were arrested for any offence – an arrest rate of 0.5%, compared with an average 10% arrest rate for street searches under normal police powers.
The figures prompted the former Conservative home affairs spokesman David Davis to call for the controversial policy to be scrapped.
"This astonishing fact of no terrorism-related arrests, let alone prosecutions or convictions, in over 100,000 stop and searches, demonstrates what a massively counter-productive policy this is," said Davis.
"A policy which fuels resentment and antagonism amongst minority communities without achieving a single terrorist conviction serves only to help our enemies and increase the terrorism threat."
The annual Home Office bulletin on the use of terror powers also discloses for the first time that more than 85,000 people were questioned by police at airports and other border points in the last years under counter-terrorist legislation. More than 2,600 of them were held for more than an hour.
As Home Office ministers consider proposals to cut the current 28-day limit on detention without charge of terror suspects, the official figures reveal that nobody has been held longer than 14 days for the last two years before being charged or released.
The annual bulletin on the police use of counter-terrorism powers shows that, since the 9/11 attacks, 1,834 people have been arrested in Britain in connection with terrorism-related incidents.
A total of 1,000 of those suspects have been released without charge, 422 charged with terrorism-related offences, 228 with other crimes, and the remaining 184 dealt with by other action such as being transferred to the immigration authorities.
So far, 237 of those charged with terrorism-related offences have been convicted. There are 14 outstanding trials yet to be completed.
The Home Office figures show that 102 convicted terrorists were serving prison sentences – 84 of them Muslims – as of 31 March this year, with a further 25 released into the community after finishing their sentences in the last year.
The bulletin shows that the use of section 44 counter-terrorism stop and searches, which allowed the police to randomly search anyone without grounds for suspicion in a designated area, declined sharply in advance of a ruling earlier this year by the European court of human rights that it was unlawful.
There were 101,248 searches under these powers in 2009/10, a 60% reduction on the previous year. The vast majority were carried out by the Metropolitan police in London or by the British Transport police. The use of section 44 powers peaked at more than a quarter of a million searches in 2008/09 in the aftermath of the Haymarket bomb attack in London in 2007.
The figures show that 506 people were arrested as a result of the 101,248 searches and none of these arrests had anything to do with terrorism. Home Office statisticians say this arrest rate of 0.5% of searches under counter-terrorism powers compares with an average 10% arrest rate for searches under normal police powers.
The home secretary, Theresa May, is considering the future of section 44 under the review of counter-terrorism legislation which is due to report in the next few weeks. Since the Strasbourg ruling a residual power under section 44 has remained in force to allow the police to conduct random searches of vehicles.
The police use of section 44 to stop and search on the street has further declined since March, when the official figures were collected. An ethnic breakdown of the 101,248 searches shows that 59% of those stopped were white and 27% were black or Asian.
The counter-terrorism review is also looking at whether the 28-day limit for detaining terror suspects without charge should be retained, with Liberal Democrats pressing to reduce it to 14 days. The figures show that since the limit was raised from 14 to 28 days in 2006, 11 people have been detained for longer than 14 days. In the last two years nobody has been held without charge for longer than 14 days.