With the blanket coverage of MPs’ expenses late last week I almost missed a BBC News story about stops under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000

The article contacts a few facts and figures about how effective section 44 has really been.

  • In London during 2008 there were more than 170,000 searches conducted
  • Of these just 65 (0.035%) led to arrests for terror offences
  • The Home Office, Department of Justice and Met are “unable to say” if anyone had been charged or convicted as a result of a search.

They are staggering figures, essentially around 2,600 searches need to be conducted to get one terror related arrest.  You can argue that those 2,600 searches act as a deterrent, but I think there’s a stronger argument that the police time taken to conduct 2,600 searches would be more effectively spent on intelligent policing.

Assuming five minutes and two officers per search my back of the envelope calculation is that, including holidays, it’s about three months of police time for each arrest – and it would seem that those arrests haven’t led to any charges.  You shouldn’t assess police effectiveness on arrests alone, but I can’t help but think it isn’t an effective use of police time.

And the real question, why has a supposed temporary power been in force for eight years when it’s so ineffective?

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