The government recently announced a review of Schedule 7 powers to stop and detain people especially Muslims at UK ports ending on Thursday 6 December 2012. This is the first time that this power has ever been reviewed publically and so opportunity presents itself for communities to air their concerns. CagePrisoners urges you to take action today.
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.
CagePrisoners has already urged Muslim individuals to make their views heard on this issue by taking part to the schedule 7 powers review (here). Today, we kindly request that our supporters to bring this matter to the attention of leading community figures and organisations.
What to do?
• Download and print out the pdf version of the letter below here
• Take this letter to your local community leaders, mosques, organisations…
• Ask them to endorse the demands of this letter so that Muslims and others stop being unjustly and discriminatorily stopped and searched at UK ports and airports
From Leading Members of the Muslim Community
Schedule 7 Review Public Consultation
OSCT Borders and Aviation Security
Peel Building, 2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
6 December 2012
Re: Review of the Operation of Schedule 7
This letter constitutes a joint response from several leading Muslim organisations and Mosques in the UK to the public consultation, which seeks views on proposals to review the operation of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
We welcome the opportunity to be consulted over this piece of legislation, which has been a real concern to communities, especially the Muslim Community. Whist we recognise there has been some successful prosecutions as a result of the use of Schedule 7, in recent years there has also been incidences of what can best be described as very poor implementation and use of this power, which has not been in keeping with the best traditions of the British Legal System. We must further learn the lessons from other policing enquiries such as those that surround S.1 and S.44 stop and searches and the McPherson enquiry.
We make the following observations and recommendations:-
1. We recognise the need for effective powers to makes safe ports from those who wish to do us harm. To this aim we support in principle the use of Schedule 7, where it is used in a necessary and proportionate manner.
2. However, we are very concerned about the use of Schedule 7 powers in the following ways and provide some of our recommendations for change (in bold italics):-
a) We note a passenger can be stopped, searched and questioned or required to provide documents while being detained for up to 9 hours to determine whether they are involved in terrorism. We see no reason why a person should be detained for this length. If there are reasonable grounds to suspect a criminal offence has been committed or will be committed, a passenger should be arrested and questioned at the police station. We recommend that this time for detention be shortened to 2 hours with an automatic right of compensation for any financial loss for any missed flights from public funds.
b) We note that an officer does not require reasonable suspicion that a passenger is a terrorist under Schedule 7 or require reasonable suspicion to carry out a strip search. ‘Intelligence led policing’ rather than the ‘all passengers are a risk approach’ leading inevitably to officers to speculate over a passenger, which currently underlines Schedule 7, should be changed in line with other police powers. We recommend that similar to other police stop and search powers, an officer should possess the required reasonable suspicion to detain for questioning a passenger and further possess a reasonable suspicion to carry out any other intrusive searches, if necessary.
c) We note the best way to ensure the safety of all ports is when people consider it their general responsibility to maintain the security of ports by being ‘vigilant’. We recommend public notices are placed in ports for all passengers to be vigilant and report concrete information to the appropriate authorities.
d) We note that ‘screening stops’ are not recorded, only ‘examinations’, which we understand are detentions of the passenger for detailed questioning. We recommend all stops including ‘screening stops’ are recorded not just examinations to assess whether Muslim passenger profiling is taking place.
e) We note that the faith of a passenger is not recorded whether for the initial ‘screening stop’ or for ‘examinations’. We recommend that the faith of passengers be recorded for reasons listed in c) above.
f) We note that DNA/fingerprints can be taken from a passenger under Schedule 7. We recommend the removal of the power to take DNA/ fingerprint information from those detained under Schedule 7 which does not lead to an arrest and conviction.
g) We note that passengers who are stopped do not have proper access to legal advice. We recommend that passengers be given the same rights to legal advice including telephone advice as those detained at police station with a named custody officer that can be easily contactable.
h) We note from our members that passengers are often stopped and questioned to gain information about their religious and political views and associations. It appears to us, that Schedule 7 is being used to gather intelligence on particular communities including but not limited to the Muslim community. We recommend that this practice of information gathering stops and clear guidance be given to officers over what should and should not ask.
i) We note, from our members, that passengers are often approached by police/security officers, sometimes days and weeks on their return and asked to be ‘information providers’ or to be used formally as Covert Human Intelligence Sources. There are indications that such practices are still in use that employ the use of threats and intimidation. These practices are not in keeping with the standards expected of British policing. We recommend the practice of approaching people to become information providers, stops.
j) The general misuse of Schedule 7 has been and continues to be of cause of grave concern within our community, and also impacts on the trust and confidence that members of the communities have with the police in other areas of life. We recommend changes listed above to be implemented to improve the general relationships between the police service and local communities.
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