Friday 5 October 2007

Seized At Gunpoint For Looking At Cops

In case anyone doubted that this country is still free. They say it is, but is it? Really?

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.

The Bournemouth 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."

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 envelope.
"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.

Full story...