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Police's terror search activity limited by COVID-19 threat

Falls in section 43 and Schedule 7 stops under the Terrorism Act 2000 caused by multiple lockdown measures imposed during pandemic outbreak

New data published by the Home Office shows signifcant falls in the use of stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 (TACT 2000), driven by the onset of the lockdown measures imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the year ending 31 March 2021, 513 persons were stopped and searched by the Metropolitan Police Service under section 43 of TACT 2000, a 13% fall compared with the previous year’s total of 589. The number of arrests resulting from a s.43 stop and search increased very slightly, to 55 from 51 the previous year.

Stops under s.43 are less than half than that of a decade ago, and represent the fourth consecutive year of decline. The proportion of stops that end in arrest have hovered between 7% and 12% since 2014 (figure 5.1 of the report).

Ethnicity was only stated in 67% of stops in the latest year, the lowest proportion since records began in 2011, when the proportion of cases where ethnicity was known was at its highest. It has steadily declined since. In cases where the ethnicity was known: 39% identified as ‘White’; 31% identified as ‘Asian or Asian British’; 16% identified as ‘Black or Black British’; 11% identified as ‘Chinese or Other’; 2% identified as ‘Mixed’.

2,263 persons were subject to the use of schedule 7 to TACT 2000 in Great Britain, 73% down on the previous year (when there were 8,310 examinations), and -96% since records began in 2011/12, when 63,902 persons were examined under the power.

Examiners also conducted 724 air freight and 1,874 sea freight examinations (-6% and -52% respectively on previous year), and 2 strip-searches at Great Britain's ports, airports, international rail stations and the Northern Irish border area. On no occasion was a postponement of questioning refused.

The Home Office report put the large reductions in examinations under schedule 7 of TACT 2000 over the last year down to the ‘multiple lockdown measures imposed during the COVID-19 outbreak’, as well as increased public scrutiny of the power in recent years being driven by ‘a more targeted approach in its use... reflected in the increased rate of detention’.

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