Release is taking legal action against the British Transport Police (BTP) for breach of human rights, unlawful search and trespass to the person, regarding the use of sniffer dogs to detect drugs.
Release Executive Director, Sebastian Saville was stopped and searched by the BTP at Camden Town underground station in June 2008 following a positive indication by a sniffer dog.
Mr Saville had no illegal drugs in his possession. All information gathered by Release shows that sniffer dogs are wrong approximately 75% of the time. Despite this startling level of inaccuracy, a positive indication by a sniffer dog currently gives the police reasonable grounds to proceed with a personal search.
The action, which is being taken on pro bono by 1 Pump Court barristers, is to challenge the continued erosion of civil liberties, as law abiding members of the public are prevented from going about their daily business as a result of an indication by a dog.
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 states that police may not stop and search an individual on grounds of reasonable suspicion based on personal factors alone unless there is a reliable supporting source of intelligence or information, or some specific behaviour by the person. Since Sebastian’s behaviour was in no way suspicious, and dogs themselves are not reliable indicators, it is claimed that he was therefore unlawfully detained and searched. Release argues that these actions constituted a breach of Sebastian’s fundamental human rights to freedom of movement and respect for private life, as well as constituting a trespass to his person.
The case is expected to reach the High Court later this year. If Sebastian and Release are successful in their claim, the police will be forced to desist from using sniffer dogs for the detection of drugs. Follow how the press are covering the story here and here.