POLICE powers to stop and search, due to come into force soon, will give officers the right to search all pedestrians and vehicles in a given area in a 24-hour period if there is a suspicion of serious violence at an event due to occur.
Barristers at 2 Gray's Inn Square, in a seminar given to solicitors, warned lawyers to be aware of the new "blanket power" under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. Once a police superintendent or more senior officer suspects that an event could involve violence, the power can be invoked and they can authorise a 24-hour stop and search policy.
Barrister Mark Whalan says that refusal to co-operate will be a summary offence with terms of imprisonment of up to a month.
Human rights campaign group Liberty is also concerned about the new power and fears that the public and lawyers may not be fully informed about it.
Use of the powers could spark another Brixton-type riot, warns Andrew Puddephatt, Liberty's general secretary. "It's very explosive, particularly if the police target the new power against young people, people with a particular lifestyle, or black people," he says.
Puddephatt adds: "If this happens, it will exacerbate difficulties with the community and could lead to problems."