The decision of the ECtHR in Gillan and Quinton has given rise to some interesting comment. See a good contribution by Vicky Conway “Stop and Search and the Human Rights Boundaries” on the Human Rights In Ireland blog.
And in today’s Guardian, Sir Ian Blair, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has argued in favour of the powers ruled illegal by the Court in an article entitled “In defence of stop and search“. The main thrust of his argument is that the ends justify the means, and if it was not for such powers the police would victimise suspect communities:
Were the power to be abolished or unduly curtailed in its application … two
consequences are likely. The first is that it would be almost inevitable that police officers would, as a pragmatic solution, begin to target these kind of searches much more closely on the particular community from which the current threat is seen mainly but not exclusively to come, young Muslims, with all the increase in alienation that would engender. Inconvenience shared must be preferable. Second, and avoidably, Britain would simply be less safe.
This seems to miss the clear points made by the court that firstly, those commuties were actually being targetted under the powers in the Terrorism Act 2000 and presumably the police felt justified and empowered to do that, and secondly, that no one had been charged with any terrorism related offences following a stop and search.
No country should allow their police to justify random and extensive stop and searches under the justification of making terrorists understand (as in airports) “that they are at risk, however covert their behaviour, of being searched and having their details logged at random.”
The decision of the ECtHR seems to be lost of Sir Ian Blair. It will be interesting to see if the British Government understand a little better the importance of Article 8 rights in relation to stop and search powers.