London woman challenges stop-and-search powers in court

A woman who was subjected to a search after failing to pay a bus fare in north London is seeking a judicial review of stop-and-search powers.

Ann Juliette Roberts, 39, was arrested and handcuffed when she resisted the search in Haringey in September 2010.

Her barrister told the Court of Appeal the powers were used disproportionately against black people.

The bus route was "a hotspot" for knife crime and the search had nothing to do with race, the QC for the police said.

Mrs Roberts, who is of African-Caribbean heritage and lives in Upper Edmonton, was on the 149 bus route when she was searched for not paying the fare and behaving suspiciously, the court heard.

Race 'completely irrelevant'

Hugh Southey QC, representing the appellant, told the judges that official statistics showed the searches were "without adequate justification" and were violating Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights - which prohibits racial discrimination.

Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lady Justice Rafferty and Lady Justice Macur were being asked to overturn a previous application for a judicial review which was rejected by the High Court .

Jeremy Johnson QC, representing the police commissioner, said the bus route was known to be used by gang members in the area and hence was "a hotspot" for knife crime, which meant police carried out stop-and-search operations to prevent further violence.

No weapons were found on Mrs Roberts after she was arrested for obstructing the search and a caution for the incident was later quashed, the court heard.

Mr Johnson said: "The fact that she was black was completely irrelevant to the decision to search her.

"She was searched because she had failed to pay her fare, she had been caught, she had lied, she was acting in a suspicious manner, she was in a place which was a hotspot for the the carriage of weapons, and the officer thought she might be concealing a weapon."

Mr Southey said: "She comes from a community scarred by knife crime. However, she also knows communities need to have faith in the way the police operate.

"That is why it is important for her to ensure proper safeguards are in place and to ensure proper justification when these powers are used."

The three judges have reserved their judgment on Mrs Roberts's application for a declaration that random searches under section 60 of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act violated the human rights of black people.

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