ONE of the immediate impacts of the London bombings on July 7 was the introduction of 'racial profiling' for stop and search operations by the British Transport Police.

"We'll not waste time searching old white ladies," remarked the BTP Chief Constable Ian Johnson, as he set out why men of "Asian, West Indian and east African origin" would be top of the list of suspects to be searched.

With such profiling in place, it would have been surprising if Walter Wolfgang had been stopped and searched had he travelled on the London underground following the July bombings.

As an 82-year-old survivor of the Nazi regime who fled to Britain, Mr Wolfgang is likely to be only too aware of the fears which might be associated with over zealous policing and the potential impact of disagreeing too publicly with the state.

It is therefore both ironic and deeply worrying that Mr Wolfgang might be the first survivor of Nazism to be cited under Britain's anti-terrorism laws following his ejection from the Labour Party conference last week, after heckling Jack Straw.

As the Government tries to prepare to bring forward new laws on anti-terrorism, including detention without trial for a period of up to three months and prosecution for glorifying acts of terrorism, the Suffolk constabulary's decision to deny Mr Wolfgang re-entry into the conference and to detain him for a matter of hours under anti-terror laws, should be a red light to all concerned with civil liberty.

Opponents of the Government's new measures, who argue they will seriously curtail rights of free speech, need only to point to Mr Wolfgang to demonstrate that the proposed new laws will give the police powers which they may choose to use, or abuse, on cases which have not the slightest linkage to bombings, planned acts of murder or terrorist attacks, but are rather incidents of someone choosing to disagree with the government and vocalising that opposition.

If Mr Wolfgang can be restricted under anti-terror laws for heckling Jack Straw, what might be in store for those Muslims who feel the Government is being over zealous in closing down mosques which it feels are not conducive to the public good?

Will not those young Muslims at risk of radicalisation by extreme forces be exactly those who might be fuelled by what they see as acts of blatant injustice to sign up to the extremists' cause?

The new measures proposed by the Government run a real risk of creating the very conditions they seek to remove by handing to the police powers of such sweeping authority that the vocal may be transformed into the criminal and the sympathetic into the radical.

The lesson of Mr Wolfgang is clear - new powers at the cost of liberty are not the answer, better intelligence at the cost of increased resources probably is.