London: The British Government has said it will review counter-terrorism laws after it emerged that security and law enforcement forces across the country have misused the controversial powers.
Police need ministerial approval for random stop-and-search powers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The powers, which allow officers to stop individuals without suspecting them of a crime, have to be renewed every month but a number of critical errors in the procedure have emerged, The Telegraph reports.
The paper quoted Baroness Neville-Jones, the country’s Security Minister, as saying that she was "very concerned" by the errors and said a review of counter-terrorism legislation would be published "as soon as possible".
She said: "To maintain public confidence in our counter terrorism powers, it is absolutely crucial all those responsible for exercising them do so properly. I take these matters extremely seriously and have instructed the Department to conduct an urgent review of current procedures to ensure that errors can be prevented in future.”
The blunder was discovered by officials responding to a Freedom of Information Act request but withheld under “pre-election protocols".
Scotland Yard blamed the Home Office for failing to give the correct authorisation for one operation that resulted in the illegal stop-and-search of hundreds of individuals.
An application to authorise random searches was left gathering dust on a desk at the government department until three hours and 40 minutes after the deadline for it to be signed.
It was subsequently signed by the-then home secretary, David Blunkett, and returned to the Metropolitan Police, which went ahead with the searches in April 2004.
They searched 840 people, 205 vehicles and 70 boats between 11.59 am on April 05 and 7.20 am on April 29, all of which have now been judged illegal by Scotland Yard lawyers.
Further errors dating back to 2001 were also discovered but the records of the searches have been destroyed.