Seized At Gunpoint For Looking At Cops
Disabled men entered onto terrorism
database indefinitely after detention and questioning
Two disabled men from Bournemouth, England were seized from a
pub at gunpoint by police under the terrorism act, taken to the
local police station and questioned for 45 minutes after one of
them opened his mail and the other looked at a police officer.
Daily Echo reports that Bob Hamlen, 47, and Michael
Burbidge, 31 were dumbfounded when approached by officers in a
beer garden overlooking the security checkpoint at the entrance
to the Highcliff Marriott Hotel where top British politicians
are currently staying for the annual Labour Party conference.
Mr Hamlen told reporters:
"We were treated like terrorist suspects....
It was so over the top, there were about eight officers around
us asking questions which was very frightening.
"We told them we lived round the corner and
this was our local pub. But, while an armed officer pointed
his gun at us from the other side of the street, they made us
empty our pockets and put all our possessions on the table.
Then they checked all our credit cards and documents.
"I was carrying my disabled bus pass but
it didn't make any difference. I needed to go to the toilet
and an officer went with me in case I escaped. After radioing
through the information, they asked us to accompany them, in
separate police cars, to the police station."
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Mr Hamlen also made it clear that he has arthritis
and brittle bone disease and has been registered disabled for
five years, while Mr Burbidge has been paralysed all his life
and relies on a wheelchair and crutches to get around.
The two men hardly fit the description of hardcore
Al Qaeda terror suspects, but then that does not matter because
everyone is now a suspect under the 2000 terrorism act.
Mr Hamlen continued:
"They said the reason I was being taken to
the police station was because I had been seen passing a white
"But all I did was take my post out of
my jacket pocket and open an electricity bill.
"On Michael's stop and search form they said
they wanted to speak to him, under the Terrorism Act, because
he had been looking at a police officer.
"That area of town is saturated with police
officers and, from where we were sitting, it would have been
impossible not to be watching one."
The men were then taken to the police station and
questioned for 45 minutes. After this the police asked the two
men to take them to their flat so they could search it. When the
search turned up nothing out of the ordinary police decided the
two men posed no threat and returned them to the pub.
Mr Hamlen and Mr Burbidge, who have lived in the
area for many years, say they feel violated and are demanding
an official apology.
Though the two were not arrested or charged they
were issued with stop and search records which will be placed
on the UK stop and search database and kept there indefinitely,
as per standard procedure.
Under section 44 of the terrorism act of 2000, police
were granted the power to stop and search anyone without the need
to show that they have "reasonable suspicion" an offence
is being committed, providing the stop takes place in an area
designated as a potential terrorist target.
Currently, however, the whole of London is covered
by the powers, meaning the stops can happen anywhere in the city.
45. - (1) The power conferred by an authorisation
under section 44(1) or (2)-(a) may be exercised only for the
purpose of searching for articles of a kind which could be used
in connection with terrorism, and
(b) may be exercised whether or not the constable has grounds
for suspecting the presence of articles of that kind.
Under the rules, officers have
been told to avoid “racial profiling”
and “not to focus on specific groups”. The advice
adds: “Be aware that there is no specific racial, ethnic,
sexual or religious profile for terrorists.”
Christopher Gill, chairman of the Freedom Association,
commented: "These laws are terrifyingly wide
ranging, and fail even to demand suspicion in order to stop someone
and thus list them for life.
"They are being over-used, and innocent people
are having their records marked as a result. The police are supposed
to protect the innocent from the guilty, not smear their records
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Incidents of Stop and search have risen
dramatically recently in the UK, so much so that
senior police officials are now questioning the validity of the
Last December the UK's senior counter terrorism
police officer questioned
the value of stop and search powers, noting that
very few arrests or charges arise from searches.
In February, Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair
vowed to review the use of terror stop and search powers after
a Metropolitan Police Authority report said it was causing "untold
damage" to certain communities.
Police even refused
to accept enhancements to stop and search powers
earlier this year, declaring them "unnecessary" and
arguing that such measures were counter-productive as they erode
public trust. Such enhancements would have given police the power
to ask an individual who they are and where they are going. Under
the proposed legislation, withholding such information would be
an offense punishable with a £5,000 fine.
Even the United
Nations has warned that it fears the Counter-terrorism
laws are rapidly turning the United Kingdom into a police state.
The case of Bob Hamlen and Michael Burbidge, just
one of thousands, clearly demonstrates that terrorism laws are
being grossly misused by police in the UK. If there really were
such a huge concern over terrorism we would see an effort to protect
our freedoms and enhance our open society, rather than the all
out attack on civil liberties and the erosion of rights that we
continue to face.
YOUR RIGHTS UNDER SECTION 44 (Courtesy
• The police can only give you a pat down, remove outer
clothes (eg jacket, hat), search your bags and have you empty
• You do not have to give your name and address
• You do not have to explain why you are there
• You are not allowed to flee the search, but you are not
required to be actively compliant. You are allowed to 'go limp'
as passive resistance during the search if you wish not to comply
• There is no permission to collect DNA data during the
• You do not have to comply with any attempt to photograph
or record you
• Women cannot be touched by male police during these searches
• Make notes about the officers searching you - name, number
and police force
• Note the time and the events preceding the search
• Note the specific wording used by the police to explain
their authority to search you
• Ask the police for the reason that they are searching
you. Specifically, are they searching for terrorists or are they
simply trying to deter, delay or inconvenience you?