The Home Office has published: The Government Reply to the Report by Lord Carlile of Berriew Q.C (.pdf) on his Report on the Operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006.(.pdf)
This Reply contains what we have come to expect from the Government - they seem to think that rolling out even more complicated, repressive legislation (e.g. the 42 days malarkey) and even more privacy destroying data sharing. of, in this case, international and domestic airline or ferry or rail tunnel passenger and freight information, is somehow an effective anti-terrorism policy.
The Government seem to have shuffled the deckchairs and budgets around a bit, with regard to Lord Carlile's previous concerns regarding the lack of permanent Special Branch officers and offices at Ports, and regarding the growing threat of General Aviation (private corporate aeroplanes at private airfields)
Incredibly, there is also some details of further bureaucratic bungling over the supposedly strictly time and location limited, temporary Requests and Authorisations, for the extraordinary Terrorism Act 2000 section 44 stop and search without reasonable suspicion powers.
See our current, outstanding Freedom of Information Act request (currently in the Complaints queue at the Information Commissioner's Office) - HO Terrorism Act 2000 s44 Authorisations
It appears that 3 Police Forces, the dedicated Metropolitan Police National Joint Unit which specialises in terrorism legislation authorisations, the Home Office, and the Home Secretary, all find it too difficult to use a calendar to count up to the clearly laid down 28 days statutory limit correctly.
Stop and search powers - section 44
As you acknowledge in your report, in addition to the errors reported to Parliament in December 2007, a further incident occurred in South Wales Police Force area in June 2005. There was insufficient detail available in December 2007 for us to inform the House of this error. However I am now in a position to provide additional information.
See Home Office Minister Tony McNulty's Ministerial Written Statement: Commons Hansard 12th December 2007 Column 41WS
Why has there been no further Ministerial Statement to Parliament then ?
The Home Office authorised a request for use of section 44 powers by South Wales Police until 2359 om 21 June 2005. However, a new request was not signed by an ACPO rank officer until 0925 on 24 June 2005. The force continued to use the power on 22 and 23 June During this period 4 people were stopped and searched, 6 people were stopped only and two unattended vehicles were searched.
24th June 2005 was a Friday, so this was not a "weekend" problem.
No arrests occurred as a result of these stop and searches. However, South Wales police will shortly be writing to all of the individuals concerned to apologise
Note that this apology will be over 3 years after the incidents !
Further to the incidents highlighted above, Tony McNulty requested that a review of section 44 authorisations was carried out at the Home office to ensure that there had been no further occurrences. From the Home Office files available, 5 instances were noted in 2007 when the authorisation period was granted for longer than the 28 day limit set by Parliament.
How is that possible ? Has nobody at the Home Office or at ACPO been trained in the use of a Calendar ?
One instance took place in South Wales (30 days), two instances in Susses (29 days each application) and two instances in Greater Manchester Police (29 days and 30 days). These errors resulted from human error throughout the application process by the Police Force, the National Joint Unit of the MPS and the Home Office. Investigations following these errors have concluded that in two of the five occasions a subsequent application was submitted prior to the 29th / 30th day and resulted in no potential unlawful use of the power.
In the remaining three cases, the subsequent applications did not cover the 'additional' 1 or 2 days and resulted in the potential for the power to be used unlawfully.
If, by some remote chance, they had actually found any "articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism", then they would have had to have let the terrorists or their accomplices walk free in Court.
Note that there is no hint of a public apology, or of financial compensation, or of expunging these individuals' Police and intelligence agency database records of the damning "stopped and searched as a potential terrorist" black marks.
The review has provided an opportunity to ensure a more robust audit trail and to provide a more effective oversight of the application process. Should any similar errors occur in the future, the Home Office has asked the Chairman of ACPO TAM to ensure the Home Office is informed as soon as possible. We will then inform you and work with the force to ensure appropriate measures are taken.
The only explanation for these bungles must be that instead of the Requests and Authorisations being treated as a special exceptions, requiring careful weighing up of intelligence, evidence and risk analyses, by senior officials and politicians, on a case, by case basis, they have simply become generalised, routine bureaucratic form filling, which nobody is bothering to even read properly, let alone think about the consequences.
How about publishing an up to date list of the Authorisations, their start and end times and dates, and the physical geographical locations to which they apply, on a Government public website ?
That would allow everyone concerned to know that they were not acting unlawfully.
Where there are unusual, temporary section 44 Authorisations, the general public would then be able to actually participate in the fight against terrorism, by being more vigilant.
They might also waste less Police time, and lessen the chances of real terrorists slipping past busy roadblocks, by being able to modify their behavior, and deciding not to transport potentially suspicious items, such as legally held shotguns or rifles, or ammonium nitrate fertiliser, into the temporary Section 44 declared areas.
This level of information cannot possibly compromise any actual Police operations, as it is not necessary to reveal either the secret intelligence or risk analysis leading up to the Requests and Authorisations, nor any details of the Police resources (or lack of them) at any particular location, or time.
If, as we suspect, there are large areas, e.g. major airports, which are being treated as if they being are under permanent rather than strictly time and location limited Section 44 powers, then the law needs to be changed.
Extraordinary police powers, applied selectively, in secret, without informing the public (or even the vast majority of law enforcement personnel) , exactly when and where they are actually in force, are the mark of a police state.