Baker: “innocent train-spotters” hassled under anti-terrorism laws

by Stephen Tall on January 6, 2009

Lib Dem MP Norman Baker has revealed that an astonishing 150,000 have been questioned by police at railway stations under the aegis of legislation designed to prevent terrorists. The Telegraph has the full story:

The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 has been used to stop 62,584 people at railway stations and another 87,000 were questioned under “stop and search” and “stop and account” legislation. Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker, who uncovered the figures, warned that Britain was heading towards a “police state”.

He said: “Law-abiding passengers get enough hassle on overcrowded trains as it is without the added inconvenience of over-zealous policing. The anti-terror laws allow officers to stop people for taking photographs and I know this has led to innocent trainspotters being stopped. This is an abuse of anti-terrorism powers and a worrying sign that we are sliding towards a police state. Trainspotting may be an activity of limited, and indeed questionable, appeal, but it is not a criminal offence and it is not a terrorist threat.”

The revelation will increase concern that the controversial anti-terror powers are being used “disproportionately”. The Liberal Democrat MP added: “While it is important to be vigilant about the threat of terrorism to the transport network, the sheer scale of the number of people stopped by police on railway property is ridiculous.”

In a letter to Mr Baker, Ian Johnston, the British Transport Police’s Chief Constable, said: “There is clear guidance available to officers (and railway enthusiasts), and this has been reissued on a number of occasions over the last couple of months in response to the increased concern among some railway enthusiasts.”

LDV readers wondering what they can do about Labour’s moves towards creating a police state might like to read Alex Foster’s Enough Is Enough article, posted to the site yesterday.