Freelance wins the right to challenge spot search policy

By Roger Pearson

Anti-terrorism spot search provisions are to be challenged in the House of Lords by a freelance photographer.

Three law lords have given the green light for an appeal against a
decision last year in which the police won backing for a spot search
policy they adopted in September when a major arms fair was being held
in London.

The Appeal Court dismissed a challenge by a student
and a freelance photographer who claimed that the searches, carried out
on them by the Metropolitan Police under the provisions of
anti-terrorism laws, were unlawful.

Now, following a hearing last
week the law lords have given permission for Sheffield student Kevin
Gillan, 26, and photographer Pennie Quinton, 32, to challenge the
ruling.

The pair were stopped and searched in the street near the
ExCel Exhibition Centre in London on 9 September when the Defence
Systems and Equipment Exhibition and Conference was taking place.

The
Appeal Court, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, ruled that
the police had been entitled to use the anti-terrorism powers in the
way they did.

Lord Woolf said in the decision now to be
challenged: “The disadvantage of the intrusion and restraint imposed on
even a large number of individuals by being stopped and searched cannot
possibly match the advantage that accrues from the possibility of a
terrorist attack being foiled or deterred by the use of the power.”

Police made the searches under the provisions of the Terrorism Act 2000.

However,
Gillan and Quinton argue that the act does not allow such searches and
what took place amounted to a breach of their human rights.

They
claim that their treatment amounted to “false imprisonment and unlawful
trespass”. As well as claiming the police action was unlawful they also
sought damages.

No date has been fixed for the House of Lords hearing of the case but it is expected to be later this year.

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