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Schedule 7 forms a key part of the United Kingdom’s border security arrangements. Individuals engaged in terrorist-related activity travel to plan, finance, train for and commit their attacks. Examining people at ports and airports is necessary to protect public safety. Recent attempts to attack flights show that aviation remains a high priority target for terrorists.
The Home Office
Review Of The Operation Of Schedule 7 – A Public Consultation:
What is Schedule 7?
1. Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (‘Schedule 7’) is a national security port and border power. It enables an examining officer to stop, search, question and detain a person travelling through a port/airport or the border area. This is to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. Stopping an individual does not necessarily mean that the officer believes the person is a terrorist.
2. An examining officer may require a person to answer questions or provide certain documents. If a person refuses to cooperate with the examination, they can be detained by the examining officer for a maximum of 9 hours. (Most examinations, over 97%, last under an hour). Fewer than 3 people in every 10,000 are examined as they pass through UK borders. An examining officer may also search a person or anything they have with them. A failure to comply with requests made by the examining officer may be considered an offence under the Act.
3. A person who is detained under Schedule 7 may have the right to publicly funded legal advice and assistance, if they pass both a means and a merits test.
Why is Schedule 7 necessary?
4. Schedule 7 forms a key part of the United Kingdom’s border security arrangements. Individuals engaged in terrorist-related activity travel to plan, finance, train for and commit their attacks. Examining people at ports and airports is necessary to protect public safety. Recent attempts to attack flights show that aviation remains a high priority target for terrorists.
5. The number of terrorist-related arrests that result directly from a Schedule 7 stop each year is not large – about 20 annually between 2004-2009, leading to approximately 7 convictions each year. A number of key individuals have been convicted of terrorism offences as a result of a port stop. Some of these convictions are detailed at Annex
6. Schedule 7 examinations have produced information which has contributed to long and complex intelligence-based counter-terrorist investigations. The initial examination may be several steps from a final outcome as it may take some time to draw together and develop many diverse strands of information which provide evidence of terrorist activity.
7. Schedule 7 powers can only be used when a person is travelling through a port or border area. An important aspect of Schedule 7 is that it does not require any reasonable suspicion. The Code of Practice provides advice to officers on selection criteria based on current and emerging threats to the UK from terrorism.
8. Most major international terrorist plots have included the individuals involved travelling through international borders to plan and prepare for their attacks. There are important reasons why powers to stop and question may be particularly necessary at ports, to protect the public from attacks using aircraft; the use of ports to transport terrorist-related material; the illegal entry of dangerous individuals. People know that they are potentially subject to being searched if they enter a port with the intention of travel.
9. The Home Office believes that the introduction of a reasonable suspicion test for Schedule 7 could limit the capability of the police to detect and prevent individuals of interest passing through the UK border. There is very limited information that may be available regarding individuals who pass through our borders, some of whom will not have travelled to the UK before. This reduction in capabilities could reduce the deterrent effect to those who seek to travel in support of terrorist activity.
10. David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorist Legislation, made the following comments on Schedule 7 in his annual review of the Terrorism Act published on 18 July 2011;
“The utility of the power is scarcely in doubt … Schedule 7 examinations [have] been instrumental in securing evidence which was used to convict dangerous terrorists.”
11. In December 2011, the legal basis of Schedule 7 was considered in the High Court in by Mr Justice Collins. In R (K) v SSHD, a person examined under Schedule 7 sought to claim that it was incompatible with the Human Right Act 1998 and discriminatory. Refusing permission for an application for judicial review Mr Justice Collins ruled that:
“The ability to stop and examine would-be passengers at ports is an essential tool in the protection of the inhabitants of this country from terrorism … the power is necessary in a democratic society and, quite apart from the delay in seeking to challenge it, the contrary is not arguable.”
Why is the Home Office reviewing Schedule 7?
12. Schedule 7 is an important part of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy but there are concerns that it can operate unfairly. We are reviewing possible improvements which can be made to Schedule 7. We think these changes will maintain the protection of the UK border and continue to respect individuals’ human rights. Those who have an interest in how Schedule 7 is operated can help ensure that it is used effectively, fairly and proportionately by responding to this consultation.
13. David Anderson QC has acknowledged that Schedule 7 has made a negative impact on some Muslim communities and makes a series of recommendations that should be considered to improve its operation. Many of his recommendations are in line with options for change that we have identified and address in this consultation.
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