The police are facing court action this week after refusing to hand over information about counter-terrorism powers they used to allegedly discriminate against Muslims.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is seeking a high court order against the refusal, which it says amounts to a clear breach of the law. The IPCC ordered the investigations following complaints from Muslims alleging police discrimination in the use of Schedule 7, which allows stops at airports and ports. Muslims are disproportionately targeted but the police deny they use ethnic or religious profiling.
The IPCC began inquiries last year after receiving complaints from the human rights group CagePrisoners acting for eight Muslims stopped under Schedule 7. They claimed they were subject to discriminatory treatment and were targeted by police unlawfully because of their religion.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Asif Bhayat, from CagePrisoners, said: “If the police have nothing to hide then they should come forward with their evidence to the IPCC. There appears to be an arrogance and high-handedness here. This attitude probably stems from the far-reaching powers given to the police under Schedule 7 itself, which allows them to act with impunity in detaining large numbers of Muslims in the first place and then with further impunity in ignoring their own watchdog.”
Meanwhile, the Met said in a statement: “The MPS recognises the IPCC’s role in scrutinising public complaints relating to Schedule 7 stops and have been working hard to agree a procedure for dealing with such investigations that is acceptable to all stakeholders.
“We clearly set out our position to the IPCC and have offered to provide as much information about the investigations as possible. However, we have received further correspondence from the IPCC, which we are now considering.”
Schedule 7 was introduced as part of the 2000 Terrorism Act and gives the police the right to stop and search people at airports, to fingerprint them and take their DNA, and to hold them for up to 9 hours without legal representation.
More than 70,000 people were stopped and questioned under the Schedule 7 law last year and although most of them were white a hugely disproportionate number were ethnic minorities or Muslims. And the most intrusive and humiliating searches were conducted on those of “Muslim appearance.”
The government says that Schedule 7 is one of the powers in their arsenal to confront the terrorism threat to mainland Britain. They deny that it is targeted against any particular community but say they are reviewing possible improvements to it which would protect UK borders and respect human rights.