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UK government assailed over 'stop and quiz' anti-terror proposal

[JURIST] The outgoing government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair has run into stiff criticism of a proposal to give police new "stop and question" powers under toughened anti-terror laws [JURIST report]. The proposal, which was leaked to the media late last week before all government MPs were aware of it, would confer on law enforcement officers the power to stop and quiz people at random in association with terrorism investigations under threat of fines up to £5000. First reports indicated that it would not even be necessary to be a "suspect" in order to be legally targeted under the scheme, although Home Office officials later backtracked, saying that a "reasonable suspicion" would be required. Under current law, police already have power under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to stop and search persons suspected of involvement in criminal activity.

Critics - including some cabinet ministers - have expressed alarm at the plan, which some have said smacks of an emerging "police state" and on a more prosaic level could do serious damage to community relations, especially relations with the UK Muslim community. Others have said that the plan itself is suspect as being rather more than the police themselves had sought. A government minister told the BBC over the weekend that the actual legislation containing the controversial "stop and quiz" provisions would be presented to parliament in the next couple of weeks. BBC News has more. The Evening Standard has additional coverage.

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