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Special needs worker challenges police over stop and search

SEE YOU IN COURT: Ann Roberts will challenge the Met over their use of stop and search

A WOMAN who worked with children and young people with learning disabilities has won the right to take on the Met Police over stop and search in a landmark court battle.

Lord Justice Laws granted Ann Roberts, of Edmonton, north London, permission to challenge the legality of powers granted to police under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Section 60 allows officers to carry out searches for weapons on any member of the public, or their vehicle, if they have reason to believe they may be involved in serious violence.

The 38-year-old special needs worker was stopped and searched on September 9, 2010, in Haringey, north London under suspicion of being involved in gang violence.

Her solicitor Michael Oswald said: “The decision to grant permission to appeal means that the court will consider the powers of authorisation and stop and search under section 60 to review their compliance with the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights."

The ordeal started when a ticket inspector asked Roberts to get off the bus as she made her way home from work because she did not have enough money on her Oyster card.

He called police officers claiming he suspected Roberts had something to hide "because of the way she was holding on to her bag".

Roberts alleges the bus driver then snatched her bag leading to a struggle.

When six male officers arrived, they restrained her face down on the ground and handcuffed her.

She was then arrested on suspicion of fraud because her bag contained bank cards with different names. Roberts explained this was because she had recently married.

Roberts alleges she was held for eight hours and drug tested because officers accused her of having crack cocaine in her system. She was also cautioned for obstructing a search.

The tests came back negative and the caution was removed. Despite this she lost her job working with vulnerable young people because of the allegations.

This is the second time the matter Roberts has pursued the matter in court. In 2012, an application for a judicial review was dismissed.

But because of today’s successful challenge, the matter will be heard at the Court of Appeal.

Robert’s team will argue that officers are allowed too much freedom when it comes to stop and search leading to the risk of unpredictability and discrimination.

Statistics show that black people are 37 times more likely to be stopped and searched. Less than 0.5 per cent of these searches lead to an arrest for weapons.

Lobby group StopWatch has consistently raised concerns about the abuse of the measure.

Dr Rebekah Delsol, of the Open Society Justice Initiative and a member of StopWatch, said: "It is important that the law is changed to make sure that the power cannot be abused in the future."

It is hoped that the court will ensure police officers are subject to more rigorous procedural safeguards.

No date has been set for the hearing.

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