ANTI-TERROR officers must stop using powers to stop and search people at will, Britain's top police authority said today.

The controversial powers does "untold damage" to how the public sees police, a new report by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) says.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows officers to stop people without any reasonable grounds.

In the year before last September, the Met did 22,672 stop-and-searches under section 44. It led to just 27 terror arrests, the report says. "Its effectiveness ... is in serious doubt."

Even Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, head of the Met's specialist operations, admitted: "It's a power that's well intended: it's there to try and prevent, deter and disrupt terrorist activity. So, the test is: to what extent does it achieve that aim?

"And I have to say, it doesn't... There's a big price to pay for probably a very small benefit."

advertisement The 73-page report is the result of interviews held over the last year with more than 1,000 Londoners - particularly women, Asians, faith communities and young people.

"Stop and search is being targeted at young Muslim men," one young man told the MPA.

Another, who was stopped near Stockwell Tube station while wearing Islamic clothes with a rucksack, added: "I was supposed to attend a meeting held by the United Kingdom Youth Parliament and I thought it was quite funny, cause it just gave me like a topic to speak about once I got there."

A third said: "Me and my brother was walking in Brixton - Atlantic Road - last weekend, and we was stopped by a police officer just because he was wearing a top that said 'Soldier of Allah' on it. It makes me feel like: where's the justice?"

Contrary to perception, Met figures show Asians are just slightly over-represented among those stopped (16%, compared to 12% of London's population). Blacks are a little under-represented (9% compared to 11%), while whites made up 52% of those searched.

But public trust in the police fails because of perception, the report adds. "There is a widespread conviction that use of the power is targeted at Asian men, and genuine public anger that this should be the case."

The MPA, which overseas the Met, now calls on the service to justify stop-and-search or to "stop using it".

"Londoners tell us that police counter-terrorist tactics will only command public confidence if they are - and are seen to be - appropriate, proportionate and fair," said Lord Toby Harris, the MPA member for counter-terrorism.