British police stop and search plans 'discriminatory'

16th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's rights watchdog has warned the government that plans to let police stop people on the grounds of their race could be discriminatory, the Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission warned the government that their proposals amounted to racial profiling and risked contravening British and European law, in a letter seen by the paper.

"We consider there is a significant risk that this provision will result in race discrimination," the letter said.

The proposed changes would be to existing legislation regarding police stop-and-search powers.

Britain's Home Office, or interior ministry, wants to clear officers to use race as a factor in considering whether or not to stop someone -- where they think this is relevant.

But a Home Office spokesperson said: "The proposed new guidelines make clear that ethnicity may not be used as the sole basis for stopping and searching anyone."

Current Home Office guidelines, as set out on their website, say: "You should not be stopped or searched just because of your age, race, gender... or because you've committed a crime in the past."

The Black Police Association, which represents the country's serving officers, also criticised the proposals in a letter, the Guardian reported.

"We believe that such a move will be seen as deeply provocative and a dangerous concession to racism," said the association.

Rights campaigners Liberty criticised the proposal in comments last month.

"Stopping and searching individuals without suspicion is divisive enough without telling police they can directly discriminate on the grounds of race," said Liberty's policy director Isabella Sankey.

In July, the government said it was suspending anti-terror legislation allowing people to be searched by police without good reason after European judges ruled it was unlawful.

© 2010 AFP

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