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ID protester stopped and filmed under terror law will have police record for life
Comment: Ask yourself, why are the authorities so worried about peacful protest and the spread of information like in this case?
A campaigner against ID cards who was stopped under counter-terror laws while collecting signatures for a petition has been told by police that his details will be kept on file indefinitely.
Mark Wallace was outside the Labour Party conference in Brighton last autumn when he was detained under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The measure gives officers wide powers to stop anyone in a designated area, whether or not they are acting suspiciously.
Mr Wallace, who is campaign manager for the Freedom Association, said he had subsequently asked Sussex police what they proposed to do with the record of the encounter and was told the written version would be permanently retained. A video of his detention would be held for seven years, even though he had done nothing wrong.
"One minute I was peacefully collecting signatures, and the next I had five policemen around me, one with a video camera recording my every move and another taking my personal details, address and so on," Mr Wallace said.
"It was bad enough that I was subjected to this unjustly, but why am I now registered for life as linked to anti-terrorist investigations, despite my innocence?"
Mr Wallace added: "It worries me that this could damage future travel plans or even attract suspicion in future cases, when all I have done is to use my freedom of speech. The fact that peaceful protest and petitioning is subject to police investigation is itself worrying, but a policy of keeping details of the innocent on file forever is an utter disgrace."
Christopher Gill, chairman of the Freedom Association, said: "These laws are terrifyingly wide ranging, and fail even to demand suspicion in order to stop someone and thus list them for life.
"They are being over-used, and innocent people are having their records marked as a result. The police are supposed to protect the innocent from the guilty, not smear their records arbitrarily."
During the Labour conference, 426 people were stopped under section 44 and none was charged or convicted. Official figures show that nationally 119,000 people were stopped under the powers between 2001 and early 2005, and only 1,515 of these were arrested. Figures for 2005 are expected to be far higher after the London bombings last July.
Section 44 bestows exceptional powers on the police to stop and search at random, once a particular geographical area has been designated by a chief officer as one that might be targeted by terrorists and authorised as such by the Home Secretary.
Sussex police confirmed that they held stop-and-search records indefinitely and videos for seven years. The Terrorism Act does not specify what should happen to the information.
While Labour was in Brighton, the whole of the city was a designated area. Unlike with normal stop-and-search powers, police are not required to have "reasonable suspicion" that an offence is being committed.
In his annual review of the Terrorism Act last year, Lord Carlile said the use of section 44 "could be cut by at least 50 per cent without significant risk to the public or detriment to policing".
During the 2005 general election, a group of train-spotters was detained and searched at Basingstoke station, which was on a list of possible terrorist targets drawn up by the Home Office.
Also at last year's Labour conference Walter Wolfgang, an octogenarian party member who was ejected from the main hall for heckling, was questioned under section 44.
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