Every year approximately 70000 people are stopped under Schedule 7 powers in the UK. The profile of the persons stopped and the questions asked point towards discrimination against people belonging to a certain faith.
It is clear that there is a wholesale misuse of the powers and that sometimes they are being used to gain intelligence on activists or campaigners who may be working contrary to government policy.
Schedule 7 is being used as a tool in the governments counter terrorism strategy to harass sections of British society, with many officers misusing the arbitrary law based on whims and fancies and not on evidence. In fact the entire legal framework surrounding this and other anti-terror legislation has a unique stench of being systematically flawed and with no legitimate way for accountability and reform, from the officers all the way up to the legislators and policymakers in government.
In addition to the questions pointing towards discrimination based on the grounds of faith, the limited statistics the Home Office is forced to release relating to these stops show that persons of Indian/Pakistani or ‘other’ ethnicity are nearly 42 times more likely to be interrogated1. The faith of those stopped is not required to be recorded and although Individual forces may have different practices, I believe that only stops which exceed 1 hour in length are recorded nationally.
Suffice to say, having sought accounts from people in mosques around the country, it is agreed that the need for security is important in our country but the way it is being conducted is highly counterproductive. Such laws and general conduct of officers, disengages a huge portion of the British population who positively contribute to society every single day. It has garnered a deep feeling of distrust towards the government and police, and in some cases actually creates the anger and ‘extremism’ it so famously boasts to combat. The general feeling amongst the Muslim community is that we feel anxious when travelling, even though our reasons for travelling are the same as the rest of British society. We like going away with our families too!
Being treated different by authorities in our country leads to a sense of being treated like second class citizens, criminalising a minority and buying into the general feeling of islamophobia in society today. One would think the millions spent on intelligence and security in Britain today would mean they had more efficient ways, based on fact, rather than the size of someone’s beard. One only has to research the ‘stops to convictions’ ratio to realise that this is only draining already strained police resources, in austerity riddled Britain. It is a waste of time and a waste of money which isn’t making us safer but is certainly repeating history and mistakes. I am a former civil servant, and branch PSC officer. Having spoken at national conference gives me the confidence to put pen to paper and raise this unacceptable conduct today. But many others remain voiceless – who will speak up for them?
We have formalised an Action Plan for all those who would like to speak up against this injustice. It involves making a complaint to the IPCC and your MP about your stop, contact orgs which may be collecting statistics and speaking to the correct media to highlight your experience. You may also have grounds to mount a judicial review against your stop and search.
OVERALL ACTION PLAN
- Contact Schedule 7 Stories caseworkers to record your experience on the site.
- Record your complaint at https://secureforms.ipcc.gov.uk/Pages/form_complaint.aspx
- Contact your local MP and speak to him about how he can take your experience forward.
- We can help you engage Print, TV and Radio Media genres.
- You may have grounds for a legal judicial review on your stop.