StopWatch welcomes the findings of the report published on Monday (06/06/2011) by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) exploring the impact counter terrorism legislation is having on Muslim communities. The research finds that the use of schedule 7 stops at UK ports are having the single most negative impact on Muslim communities.
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 empowers police officers to stop and question travellers at UK ports and airports without needing reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is engaged in any acts of terrorism. Officers may detain the person stopped for up to nine hours; search them and their belongings; take DNA and fingerprints and question them on their social, political and religious views. Although the detainee is not under arrest, they are obliged to answer questions before their lawyer arrives or risk being arrested for 'obstruction'.
Statistics, recently released, following a freedom of information request made by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), showed that more than 85,000 stops were carried out under Schedule 7 in 2009–10, of which 2,201 lasted over an hour. Of these schedule 7 stops fewer than one-in-a-hundred (0.57 per cent) resulted in a detention. No information has been provided on the results of these detentions.
The majority of schedule 7 stops were targeted at people from black and minority ethnic groups even though they make up a small minority (less than 10 per cent) of the national population. Asian people accounted for 26 per cent of Schedule 7 stops (and 5 per cent of the national population), Black people accounted for 8 per cent of stops (and 3 per cent of the population) and people from other ethnic groups (including Chinese and ‘mixed race’) accounted for 22 per cent of stops (but only 1 per cent of the population).
The targeting of black and minority ethnic groups is even more marked when we consider the most intensive Schedule 7 stops. Of those stops which lasted over an hour, 41 per cent were of Asian people, 10 per cent were of black people and 30 per cent were of ‘other’ ethnic groups, leaving fewer than 20 per cent that were of people from whites backgrounds.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission research illuminates the experience of being stopped for those on the receiving end of this power. Across the four areas studied, the nature of the questions asked during the stops and examinations intensified feelings that the stops are based on religious profiling. Senior officials and police officers highlighted the
negative impact that schedule 7 is having on police relations with Muslim communities, and some have reached the view that the negative impact on communities outweighs the benefits it provides.
Tufyal Choudhury, Lecturer at the University of Durham and co-author of the report, stated:
'The research finds that the experience of schedule 7 stops is having a real negative impact on Muslim communities and in many cases undermines attempts by local police officers to build trust and confidence in their areas. There is a clear need for greater transparency and accountability around its use'
The report reinforces the recent calls from StopWatch and a growing number of parliamentarians for a review into the use of schedule 7, which was excluded from the government's recent review of counter-terrorism and security powers.
Zin Derfoufi, StopWatch member stated:
'The report highlights the detrimental impact this exceptional and under regulated police power is having on Muslim communities in Britain. It adds further weight to the need for an independent review of schedule 7 aimed at making the use of this power more transparent, proportionate and intelligence-led'
- StopWatch is an action group that seeks to work with communities, ministers, policy makers and senior police officers to ensure that the reforms to the police service are fair and inclusive, and lead to better policing for all.
- The report was conducted by Tufyal Choudhury and Helen Fenwick from Durham University on behalf of the EHRC and can be accessed here: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/publications/our-research/research-reports/researchreports-71/
- A briefing created and published by StopWatch on schedule 7 can be found here: 'Asian people 42 times more likely to be stopped under Schedule 7'