A Big Brother stop and search power which has been used by police to harass hundreds of thousands of innocent people will remain in force despite being ruled illegal.
The news that police may continue to search members of the public
without having any reasonable grounds for suspicion provoked fury among civil liberties campaigners.
The power - section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 - has been ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Home Office now has
no remaining grounds for appeal. But, despite the crushing Strasbourg defeat, officials say they will not stop the police from using the power for months or even a year or more.
In the meantime, tourists, photographers and other members of the
public will continue to be subjected to the humiliating searches - of which 256,000 were carried out last year, without catching a single terrorist.
Isabella Sankey, policy director for the campaign group Liberty, said: The objectionable policy
of broad stop and search without suspicion was wrong in principle and divisive and counterproductive in practice.
The Lib Dems and Tories now say that they want to wait until a review of all Labour's draconian anti-terror laws has been
completed before deciding what to do next. Ministers are given a period of grace by the European court to implement its ruling which, based on previous examples, can last for up to a year, or even longer. Enlarge High-profile victims of terror
Police are to be stripped of the power to stop and search anyone for no reason, the Home Secretary has announced.
Theresa May told the Commons she will immediately limit Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 so members of public can only be
stopped if officers reasonably suspect they are terrorists. The threshold of suspicion will bring the Act into line with traditional stop and search powers.
The move follows defeat for the UK government in January at the European Court of
Human Rights. The court found that Section 44 violated the right to respect for private life; article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.
May said: The Government cannot appeal this judgment although we would not have done so had
we been able. I can therefore tell the House that I will not allow the continued use of Section 44 in contravention of the European Court's ruling and, more importantly, in contravention of our civil liberties.
Police use of Section 44 to stop
individuals will no longer be allowed, although it will still apply to vehicles.
The legal challenge against Section 44 was brought by Liberty, the human rights charity, following the stop and search of a peace protestor and a journalist who were
planning to attend a demonstration against a large arms fair in London in 2003.
Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti hailed the withdrawal of the power today. It is a blanket and secretive power that has been used against school kids,
journalists, peace protesters and a disproportionate number of young black men, she said: To our knowledge, it has never helped catch a single terrorist. This is a very important day for personal privacy, protest rights and race equality in