Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Compensation for stop and search

In 2007, UK comedian Mark Thomas was stopped and searched outside an arms fair under anti-terrorist law. The reason for the search? He looked "over-confident" at a demonstration. He was "believed to be an influential individual" who had addressed the crowd and "appeared to know what [he was] talking about". These characteristics clearly marked him out as a potentially dangerous terrorist who could be carrying weapons, and as a result he was detained and searched.

Today, Thomas won compensation of £1,200 - £100 per minute - for false imprisonment and violation of his right to be free of arbitrary search and seizure. Its good news, but its worth remembering that over 100,000 people were subjected to such searches in 2008, almost all on similarly tenuous grounds. Those people's rights have also been violated, and the government should compensate them too. But beyond that, it should repeal the law which provides for such unreasonable searches, because it is clear that they are a widespread and systematic violation of people's rights.