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7,500 searched in London under anti-terror law

London Evening Standard

More than 7,500 people in London have been stopped and searched by police under emergency anti-terrorism powers.

The Home Office has defended the police's use of the Terrorism Act 2000 - despite new figures that reveal just 174 arrests have been made as a result.

A spokesman said: "The Section 44 stop-and-search power is a necessary part of counter-terrorism measures ... the procedures both for applying for and confirming the use of stop-andsearch are carefully considered."

He conceded that critics could view the measure as "unnecessary". But he added the protection of national security "is the responsibility of the Governmentand the police, and neither can take risks at this time of concern".

In London 7,566 people and vehicles were searched under the act between April 2001 and April 2002. This figure makes up more than 75 per cent of all searches that have taken place in England and Wales.

Police used the powers to pull over and search a total of 7,007 cars and their occupants. They also searched 559 pedestrians.

Human-rights pressure group Liberty is heading a court action against the powers. It lost the first round of the case at the High Court - but now plans to go to the Court of Appeal.

The Home Office has refused to provide MPs with the number of those arrested who have then been charged, saying it could only be calculated at "disproportionate cost".

Liberty claims the lack of information is proof that the Government is trying to hide an almost complete lack of arrests under the powers.

Spokesman Barry Hughill said: "Most people will suspect that we would have heard about it if the police - using the anti-terrorism powers - had actually been able to catch terrorists."

The Terrorism Act 2000 allows police commanders to declare the whole of London an area where stop-and-search can be deployed at any time. Officers can use stop-and-search to deal with people they suspect may be involved in terrorist activity.

The powers have been in operation in London for much of this year. They were deployed immediately after the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, and this year during an arms fair in the Docklands. They will be in place later this month for the state visit of US President George Bush.

Scotland Yard has vigorously defended its use of the controversial powers and said they were only used when necessary.

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