As far as I know this law has been used to detain and question activists only once before at a sea port so has rarely been used by police against activists. Two of us were detained last night on flying back from Oslo and arriving at Birmingham and I feel that it is important that other activists are aware of these extraordinary police powers and how to avoid them intruding where they really should not. I and my companion were released after a few hours of what they called “examination” and we did talk to lawyers and there was a bit of comedy value to the whole farce so it was not all bad BUT they can stop and question ANYONE they want so be prepared all who wish to enter the UK whatever your beliefs are, whatever your activism entails.
We walked through the passport bit and were stopped by a Detective Constable called Jack 3876 and a woman 1245 from West Midlands police who wanted to know our names and addresses and occupations, where we had been, what we had done, who we had met etc. A little bemused by the questioning I stopped answering at “occupation” (let alone who, what why, where…) and lo and behold they decided that they had suspicions and that they wanted a more cosy little chat we were taken to a desk and told to fill in cards which included information about name, address, date of birth etc. We filled in what we could (ie not al lot)and then came questions about how we paid for flights. They then looked at my credit card which is a Visa and has for many years paid some small amount to Amnesty International and has the AI logo on it. They really did not like this saying that caring about human rights was suspicious and we were detained under the Terrorism Act 2000 and separated for questioning.
For those who are not aware PACE does not apply in this instance. It appears (as this has not been challenged in court) that the detained person commits an offence under this act if s/he refuses to answer any questions and they were getting quite cross with me when I did not “cooperate” almost shouting “you HAVE to answer”. For those who utter the mantra “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about” the questions included asking about my parents details, if I had any children, work, colleagues, friends, if I had a partner, any drug addictions, religious beliefs all in all far beyond the remit of preventing terrorism and well into the realms of a gigantic fishing expedition coupled with threats of prolonged incarceration. I was under the distinct impression that if I did answer a question about for example my mother that it would lead to many more questions of a personal nature so I refused to play that little game.
First they tried to intimidate by saying that if I did not answer questions that they would hold me for 9 hours, then arrest me under the Terrorism Act and hold me for 48 hours then apply to a magistrate and hold me for 7 days. This was followed by an emphasis on the fact that unlike under PACE I was not entitled to free legal advice with them implying that it would cost a fortune to access a lawyer. I demanded one anyway (and would advise others to do the same money can be raised afterwards) and spoke to a good human rights lawyer who helped me as much as he was able. They can (if a Superintendant believes it is appropriate) refuse ANY access to a lawyer for 48 hours, I was apparently not entitled to a private conversation with my lawyer, police were present at all times, if PACE applied it would have been breached. As the attempts at intimidation did not work and Gene Hunt declined an appearance it was then on to sympathising with animal rights (ohh I HATE fur etc etc ad infinitum). This then went on to trying to provoke anger which consisted of getting out all my T shirts and taking the piss out of some of the sentiments written on them for example “what’s wrong with angling?” using a rather mocking tone and then writing down all the slogans they seemed to like the SPEAK T’shirt especially and were at one stage going to keep it, runners up were the WARN hoodie and a CAFT T’shirt which I admit has a naughty word on it! This was rather amusing it has to be said.
They were interested in who I knew, who the organisers of the organisation are (what organisation? you may ask dear reader and no I don’t know either), religion, philosophy, who I had met and lots of other stuff. None of this was taped our little chum Jack just wrote down his questions my “no comment”, silences and occasional answers to questions which I believed harmed no one for example no I am not a drug addict, no I do not have any bombs or stuff. Now those who enjoy a good rant could have all sorts of fun if careful pertaining to beliefs and obsessions such as being a Jedi or something but I was good and did not indulge in this sort of fun, it would have been cruel. I was ever more conscious that answering any questions about others was not only utterly unethical (ie grassing) but would lead to many more questions. For example say I had said in answer to a question “who did you meet?” and I had said “Bill”, they would have had a whole new avenue of questioning about Bill his Mum, his Mum’s goldfish and what they have for dinner, what time and all his associates, and all their associates and so on and so on. Logic decreed that they were probably pushing their boundaries to the legal limits and that if I wanted to get out that giving the police the infinite boring details about my life and everyone else I know was not the sensible way to do it.
The police have kept my mobile phone, they have also photocopied every piece of paper credit card receipts, notebook and diary in retrospect it was not too clever to have such things so easily accessible but I am sure that it is possible that if my sim card was hidden that they might have gone looking for it. I should imagine that they would have got really excited if I had a laptop on me. I was given a pat down search and not strip searched. I was only held for a couple of hours and a file might be going to the CPS to say that I was uncooperative which might be an offence.
The information word for word given to me is reptyped below (the scanner is not working).
“THE TERRORISM ACT 2000
Notice of Examination
This notice is to inform you that you are being questioned under the provisions of Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 as someone whose presence at the port of Birmingham is believed to be connected with entering or leaving Great Britain or Northern Ireland or travelling by air within Northern Ireland or Great Britain. This in itself does not necessarily mean that the examining officer who is questioning you suspects that you are a person who is, or has been, concerned in the commission , preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. The purpose of the questioning is to enable him to determine whether you appear to be such a person.
You have a duty to be truthful and to give the examining officer all the information in your possession which the officer requests. You must also give to him , if he so requests, a valid passport, or other document which establishes your identity. You must also declare whether you have with you any documents o a kind specified by the officers, and if he so requests, give them to him. The Examining officer may also search your luggage.
The examining officer may, for the purpose of examination, detain any document which you have given to him, or anything found during a search of your luggage, for a period not exceeding 7 days (beginning with the day on which the detention commenced).
You may also be asked, or have been asked, to complete and hand to the officer an arrival or embarkation card. If so you have a duty to comply with that request.
If you deliberately fail to comply with any of these duties, you could be prosecuted under paragraph 18(1) of Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000.
You may, if you so request, have someone close to you, or known to you or likely to take an interest in your welfare informed that you are being questioned and where you are. You can do this at public expense. You may also consult a solicitor, wither in person, in writing or by telephone. If you do not wish to make a request now you can still do so later at any time.
The examining officer also has the authority to detain you, if necessary, for up to 9 hours from the time your examination began.
The Terrorism Act 2000
Notice of Detention
You have been detained under the provisions of Schedule 7 paragraph 6 of the Terrorism Act 2000, so that an Examining Officer may exercise his power under paragraph 2 to determine if you are a person who has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
Do you want someone informed?
You may, if you wish at public expense, have a friend, a relative, a person who is known to you, or is likely to take an interest in your welfare, informed that you are being detained here. Under the provisions of Schedule 8, para 8 of the Terrorism Act 2000 or Schedule 8, para 16 in Scotland, an officer of at least the rank of Superintendent may delay this right for up to 48 hours.
Do you want to contact a solicitor?
You may consult either in person, in writing or on the telephone, privately with a solicitor. If you do not wish to do so now, you may do so later and at any time while you are detained. Under the provisions of Schedule 8 para 8 of the Terrorism Act 2000 or Schedule 8, para 16 in Scotland, an officer of at least the rank of Superintendant may delay this right for up to 48 hours.”
So there we are a nice little loophole for the police to exploit away from the watchful eye of PACE to bully and harass those they decree are subversives. The main issue is that no activist should endanger themselves or another to escape what would appear to be a minor charge as it is summary with a maximum sentence of 3 months. I suspect few have been stopped like this but a strategy is needed and activists either returning to the UK or visiting need not to be frightened or paranoid but mentally prepared . Comments, advice, feedback etc would be most welcome.
In Oslo FIT were present and working with Norwegian police i.e Sergeant Sully from the Met’ CO996 and a South Yorkshire cop from Barnsley police station 1818. Both are well known to animal rights activists and have been on many other demos eg Climate Camp. The police state is ever more oppressive.
Oh by the way DC 1245 was absolutely right I have put this up on the internet, sorry to be so predictable but there you are, it is only fair to warn people that first of all the police do have extraordinary powers at ports , secondly that these powers appear not yet to have been fully challenged and thirdly that however grim this may appear that there is no reason to furnish the police with information which is beyond their remit. There is no reason to tell the police personal stuff about self or anything at all about other people.