Section 44 is no more

HOME SECRETARY Theresa May announced in Parliament on 8 July that police are instructed not to use Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to search people without needing "reasonable suspicion".

The provision had been much used to stop those trying to report events on the streets, including photographers; and anyone else who, in the words of Law Lords, fell foul of an officer's "professional intuition" - many of whom were, oddly, not of Anglo-Saxon heritage.

Section 44 will now be used only to search vehicles, and areas will be "designated" for searches only when "necessary", not when "expedient" as at present.

This admission of defeat follows the decision - predicted here - of the European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber to reject the UK government's attempt to challenge the Court's ruling in favour of London Freelance Branch member Pennie Quinton and protester Kevin Gillan. Pennie told the Freelance "there will be champagne".

The Freelance doesn't think we've quite seen the last of Section 44: we wouldn't be surprised if it were used to search all vehicles in the Olympic Games exclusion area in 2012, for example. There will be a review of counter-terrorism powers and new legislation - eventually.

Please use the policing incident report form at to log any relevant events.

Pennie Quinton
Photo: Pennie Quinton leaving the European Court of Human Rights in May 2009
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