Tuesday, 12 January 2010

NUJ member wins case against terror law

NUJ member Pennie Quinton has won a victory in the European Court of Human Rights which has upheld her complaint against the use of terror laws to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion. Her victory has been haild by the NUJ as a "victory for media freedom". Quinton, represented by Liberty at the hearing, was one of two people stopped near an arms fair in London in 2003 and was was stopped from filming the event.
The court ruled the pair’s right to respect for a private and family life had been violated. It awarded them 33,850 euros (£30,400) in compensation.
Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the home secretary to authorise police to make random searches in certain circumstances. But the European Court of Human Rights said the people's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated.
The act removed the previous requirements that the police had to have grounds for suspicion in order to conduct a search.The court today said the stop and search powers were "not sufficiently circumscribed" and there were not "adequate legal safeguards against abuse". It is expected the UK government will be forced to change the law and scrap Section 44, which has caused controversey by being used to stop photographers taking pictures of famous landmarks.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Congratulations to Pennie and Liberty. Today’s judgement strikes a major blow for media freedom - showing that the random stop and search used against journalists is illegal. In far too many cases recently these powers have been used to stop journalists and in particular photographers from carrying out their work. The court has agreed with us that such powers are being abused.”

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