LONDON – The British government said Tuesday it will appeal a European Court of Human Rights ruling that prevents police from using anti-terror laws to stop and search members of the public.
The Strasbourg-based court ruled that a British law allowing police to stop and search people without having to first prove they were acting suspiciously violates individual freedoms.
The ruling came in a case brought by two Britons — Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton — who were stopped and questioned by police near an arms fair held in London in 2003.
British courts ruled that police acted legally because they were dealing with a general threat of terrorism. But the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the pair's rights were violated and awarded them 30,000 pounds ($48,000) to cover legal costs.
The British government gave the police the power to stop and search anyone they wished as part of the Terrorism Act passed in 2000. Rights groups, protesters and photographers have complained that police often misuse the law to stop people from carrying out legitimate activities, such as participating in demonstrations or photographing police officers or public buildings.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson said in a statement that he was disappointed by the ruling and the government would appeal. He said police would retain the powers pending the outcome.
"Stop and search under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is an important tool in a package of measures in the ongoing fight against terrorism," he said.