It has been widely reported that the police might have increased stop and search powers on the day of the royal wedding to avoid any repeat of the violent scenes which marred the recent protests on government spending cuts. So what might this mean in practice?
In normal circumstances, the police can only stop and search a person or their vehicle if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that they will find evidence of criminal wrongdoing such as stolen goods, offensive weapons or drugs. However, on 18 March the Terrorism Act 2000 (Remedial) Order 2011 came into force which gives a senior police officer with the rank of assistant chief constable or above the power to permit his officers to stop and search any individual or vehicle in a specified area or place in order to prevent acts of terrorism, without any suspicion whatsoever that the person being searched is in possession of any item which constitutes evidence of terrorist activity. A senior police officer can only give such an authorisation for a period of up to 14 days and then only if he or she reasonably suspects that an act of terrorism will take place and it is considered necessary to prevent such an act.
Metropolitan Police Commander Bob Broadhurst recently revealed that the police were aware of the threat of terrorists targeting the high number of VIPs attending the royal wedding. And he confirmed that “the wedding is primarily a security operation meets a ceremonial event. With a security operation we have different powers we can use to ensure security”. So though it remains to be seen if the police will use these sweeping new powers on 29 April, it seems very likely that they will.
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