Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Was High Court DSEi ruling aimed at stifling Bush protests?

Activists are increasingly worried that a High Court ruling made in October has given police the green light to use anti-terrorism laws to clamp down on people's right to peaceful protest.

December 1, 2003
3 min read

The High Court dismissed a challenge headed by civil liberties group Liberty, which claimed that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens and the home secretary David Blunkett had been acting unlawfully when they authorised the police to use emergency anti-terrorism laws to stop and search dozens of demonstrators at the DSEi international arms fair in east London in September.

But the judges who made the ruling realised the wide public importance of their decision and immediately granted Liberty the right to appeal. The case is expected to be heard early in the new year.

Section 44 (S44) of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows police commanders to authorise officers to stop and search people and vehicles for articles that could be used in connection with terrorism in areas they believe to be high risk – whether or not the police have grounds for suspicion.

There is widespread concern that under the current political climate, the government is putting concerted pressure on the courts – making it difficult for them to rule against the anti-terrorist powers.

Some activists saw the ruling as part of the extra security measures that were put in place to protect George Bush on his three-day state visit to Britain last month. All police leave was cancelled in London, and armed US bodyguards and special agents were brought in to patrol the streets of the capital.

-If Liberty had won, it would have dealt a great blow to Bush’s visit,” said Simon Underwood, a Camden Stop the War activist who was stopped at the DSEi arms fair. “I wonder how much the outcome was linked to the need for police to control the protests over the state visit.”

The Home Office said that the ruling “reinforces our message that the protection of the public and national security is the responsibility of our government and the police, and that neither can take risks”.

Pennie Quinton, one of the protesters who brought the legal challenge, said: “The judgment was a shame. The case proved the anti-terrorism powers weren”t used to target terrorists, but to intimidate protesters. The police will continue to use S44 to harass, target and threaten protesters, and to gather intelligence on activists during searches.”

The Metropolitan Police welcomed the High Court’s endorsement of their use of S44 powers, but recognised the need to ensure the powers were not abused.

Pressure is mounting among protesters for a more high-profile campaign against this expansion of the powers of the state. “We need to plan our actions in challenging this in the courts, and draw links with young people who are being stopped and searched because of their race, or for antisocial behaviour,” said Underwood.

Authorisations allowing the police to stop and search any member of the public at any time have been in force for the Greater London area continuously since February 2001. Between April 2001 and April 2002 more than 7,500 people in London were searched under S44.

These incidents accounted for 75 per cent of all the searches that took place in England and Wales in the period. But S44 has been used by almost every constabulary in the UK, and is routinely invoked to stop peace protesters outside the RAF base in Fairford, Gloucestershire.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: “Ultimately, the judges gave deference to the police and home secretary in national security issues. We will do our best to defend people’s right to protest without fear of being branded -‘terrorists-‘.”

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced