Schedule 7 is a counter terrorism power allowing officers at ports and airports to stop, question or detain a person for up to 9 hours, search them and their belongings and question them on their political, social and religious views. Officers can do this without the individual being given the right to legal representation at the port and they can also take the person’s DNA or fingerprint sample which is placed on the same database as convicted terrorists1 regardless of innocence. Due to the way the powers have been constructed, there is an obligation to answer all the questions of the officials.
A number of Muslims, especially young males, have been subjected to these powers and it is important that as many people take part in this review as possible. Details have been provided at the bottom of this page.
We know that this power is used to gather intelligence on communities across the UK2 and that it is causing fear and resentment towards the police and policymakers. Communities, including Muslims, should not have to fear being subjected to this power and this gives us the best opportunity to try to influence the outcome.
Statistics released by the Home Office (see table 1) show that people from ethnic backgrounds, especially those from Pakistani backgrounds, are more likely to be subjected to searches taking over an hour or being detained for up to 9 hours when compared to people from 'White' backgrounds . This shows that there is a degree of profiling at ports particularly in light of the relatively low numbers of convictions.
Examinations made under Schedule 7 3
The use of the power has reduced in 2010-11 compared to the previous year 2009-11 due to the strong campaigning of organisations like CagePrisoners, StopWatch and the Federation of Student Islamic Societies. They have taken us far but without your help this will stagnate. You can submit your views as an individual by using the anonymous questionnaire via this link.
CagePrisoners welcomes this review but is worried about the potentially misleading way in which some of the questions have been framed. For that reason, it is working with a number of organisations and campaigners to encourage participants to vote in accordance with the following principles – we have attempted to provide a justification as to why we believe the public should vote in the following ways in order to help provide a better understanding of the issues.
Question 5: vote to reduce 'examination' times. Statistics show that ethnic minorities, especially Asians, are more likely to be examined (and then physically detained) for longer periods and there is no evidence to suggest that examination or detention times correlate with the likelihood to discover terrorists.
Question 7: vote for formal detention. Schedule 7 is not an arrest and only a detention under the power would trigger greater rights for individuals held, including the right to a solicitor. Although this sounds counter-intuitive, this is the way that the law and codes of practice have been written. Currently, examinations that reach the one hour mark automatically become a detention which gives port officers more powers but also gives detainees their basic rights not available under an examination; please bear this in mind for question 8.
Questions 9, 10 & 11: vote for free legal advice for detainees and the recording of detentions. The survey suggests that this may increase detention time, however, in actual fact, it is usually the opposite. This is because once lawyers are involved, the police take greater care to avoid excessive behaviour such as taking biodata, strip-searches and unrelated questioning all of which take a great deal of time. Anything below the hour is not considered a 'detention' so the person would have already been kept for an hour and the time taken getting legal advice over the phone or waiting for a lawyer to arrive in the meantime is usually in the better interest of people detained under Schedule 7 since it reduces the total detention time. There are many abuses under Schedule 7 which go unchallenged/unproven because of the lack of access to legal advice and lack of recording- changing this would help. The potential misleading nature of these three questions are evident in the language used in some of them: first it talks of a detention and then ends with talk of an examination, sometimes within the same sentence!
Question 16: vote against officers taking people's DNA and fingerprints under any circumstance. Unfortunately this government's wider policy on DNA and fingerprint is one which is trying to make it as easy as possible to obtain people's biodata. If the police suspect a person is involved in terrorism then that would be sufficient grounds to arrest the person, which they would, and they already have powers to take biodata under arrest. Therefore there is no need to take biodata under Schedule 7 even with authorisation of a superintendent. Voting yes would make it easier for officers to obtain innocent people's genetic information at ports which is then placed on the same DNA database as convicted terrorists. Forcing officers to go to a local station to obtain consent, which can be quite a distant away from the port or airport, would place a greater burden upon police resources and therefore hopefully act as a disincentive to do this so please vote to stop officers taking people's biodata.
Question 17: the government's proposal to remove the taking of intimate DNA samples (semen, pubic hair, etc) is a sound proposal so please agree.
To learn more about Schedule 7 and related issues:
Read CagePrisoners’ report that include testimonies of Muslims that have faced Schedule 7 detentions and MI5 harrassment.
1. Protecting the Innocent: The London Experience of DNA and the National DNA Database. Report by the MPA Civil Liberties Panel. The Metropolitan Police Authority. June 2011.
2. The Terrorism Acts in 2011: Report of the Independent Reviewer on the Operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006 by David Anderson QC. June 2012.
3. Taken from: Taken from: Home Office Statistical Bulletin HOSB11/12: Operation of police powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 and subsequent legislation: Arrests, outcomes and stops and searches. Home Office 13 September 2012