Caven blog

Court allows woman to challenge ‘racist’ stop-and-search powers

The High Court has granted Ann Roberts, 37, permission to challenge the controversial section 60 power that allows police to stop and search people.

The power has been called ‘racist’ as statistical evidence shows that a vast majority of people who are stopped and searched by police are of African-Caribbean descent.

Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 was originally introduced to help police tackle illegal raves. However, the police now use this power as a useful tool against violence and crime, especially in high-crime areas. Under section 60, they can stop and search a person without reasonable suspicion that they are involved in a crime.

Ann Roberts was searched under section 60 on 9 September 2010. She had been travelling on a bus when an inspector discovered she did not have enough money on her pre-paid Oyster card. The police were called when she was unable to produce identification documents.

The police arrived and asked to search Roberts’ bag under section 60, as they claimed she was holding it in a suspicious way. She asked if the search could be carried out at the police station, as she works with young people and did not want any of them to see her in this position.

The police refused and a scuffle broke out which resulted in Roberts being restrained on the floor. In her bag the police found three identity cards with different names, her maiden name and her son’s. She was arrested on suspicion of fraud.

Roberts, who was eventually cautioned for obstructing a police search, is arguing that the section 60 stop-and-search powers are racist and a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Her lawyers are arguing that the power breaches Articles 5, 8, and 14 of the ECHR. Article 5 protects the right to liberty and security, Article 8 protects the right to a private and family life, and Article 14 protects the freedom from discrimination.

Article 14 states: ‘The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground’. Grounds include colour and national or social origin.

Roberts will now be able to challenge section 60 in a court of law.

Related Links:

Read more on the story (Guardian)
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