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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Illegal stop and search?

When I saw a tweet a few days ago from a reputable source suggesting that passengers at a London transport venue were being asked for identification by police I thought it was strange but, as I had no more details I moved on.

Today though, a story in the Observer leads me to believe that it could have been part of an operation whereby Border agency officials are conducting unlawful passport checks on buses and other public transport to try to catch illegal immigrants.

The paper says that documents it has seen suggest that staff from the UK Border Agency have been "regularly" targeting coaches at bus stations "to prevent illegal migrants from making use of the public transport network".

They add that the practice appears to be illegal, with officials only authorised to examine passengers at air or sea ports. One bus passenger subjected to the identity checks is quoted as describing them as "harassment" and behaviour that had no place in a democratic society.

One victim of these checks wrote to complain and gave an account of what happened to him:

British-born Pete Clark, 56, from Liverpool, has described that he had no idea who the officials were when they physically blocked him leaving a National Express coach travelling to the city from Leeds until the passengers revealed identification "deemed suitable."

"None of the persons involved gave an explanation of who they were, what they were doing and on which authority." he said "Their attempt to prevent passengers from going about their lawful business amounts to harassment."

He said that he had recently been working in Africa and had witnessed the heavy-handed behaviour of police and state officials acting on suspicion of illegal behaviour: "I have always considered the country of my birth to be free of this sort of constant intimidation. Sadly, this seems not to be the case. Such routine actions under repressive regimes worlwide have no place in a free democracy such as the UK."

In a letter to Clark, the UKBA explain that the intelligence operations on coaches were permitted under the immigration act 1971. Yet the act itself states only: "An immigration officer may examine any persons who have arrived in the United Kingdom by ship or aircraft."

This is a very worrying development. Day-to-day operations of agencies are not of course supervised by politicians but, now that this is in the open, the Government should investigate and put a stop to any illegal practices.


Thank you Peter for highlighting this the UKBA has acted contrary to its powers as stated in the 1971 Immigration Act. Instead choosing to adopt behaviour that has been described as 'intimidating and humiliating' to wield power - something that refugees and asylum seekers report to us on a regular basis. It is time for a mature debate on migration and for the obscene labelling of social groups to stop. I hope that the government will respond appropriately, rather than react emotionally to ensure that this Government agency faces a level of scrutiny that ensures people are treated with the respect and dignity that the UK is known for worldwide.
I got the following information from the Metropolitan Police website:

During a stop and search what information will the police ask for?

The police have a legal requirement to include certain information from individuals who have been stopped and searched. This includes:

* Date and time of the stop and search
* Location of the stop and search
* Why they stopped you, the grounds
* What they were looking for
* Names of the officers conducting the search and others present

The police officer will ask for your name and address and date of birth. You do not have to give this information if you don’t want to, unless the police officer says they are reporting you for an offence.

Everyone who is stopped or stopped and searched will be asked to define his or her ethnic background. You can choose from a list of national census categories that the officer will show you.

You do not have to say what it is if you don’t want to, but the officer is required to record this on the form. The ethnicity question help community representatives make sure the police are using their powers fairly and properly.

Who can stop me?

* A police officer, or
* A police community support officer.

A police community support officer must be in uniform. A police officer does not have to be in uniform but if they are not wearing uniform they must show you their warrant card.

From the Home Office Website:

On 7 March 2011 we changed the requirements for the police on how they record stop and search.

To aid the reduction in bureaucracy and time saved in recording stop and search encounters commenced section 1 of the Crime and Security Act 2010, which reduced the number of items recorded during a stop and search from 12 to 7. Mobile technology already in use will need to be adapted to take advantage of the reduction in bureaucracy of this change. Of the seven remaining items that need to be recorded, many can be done automatically, depending on the technological solution used to make the recording (for example, GPS can be used to note location of search; date and time can be automatic). The seven items are:

1. Ethnicity
2. Objective of search
3. Grounds for search
4. Identity of the officer carrying out the stop and search
5. Date
6. Time
7. Place
From the CAB website:

When can the police question you

The police should not question you with a view to getting evidence until they have cautioned you. If you have been arrested, you must not be interviewed before being taken to the police station unless:

* delay could lead to interference with or harm to evidence connected with the offence
* delay could lead to physical harm to others
* delay would alert someone suspected of committing an offence who has not yet been arrested
* delay would hinder the recovery of property that is the subject of the offence.

If you are cautioned without having been arrested, you must be told you are free to leave whenever you want.
So, if you are stopped by a member of UKBA who does or doesn't identify themselves, or the accompanying police officer; you don't have to say anything, then ask them if you are under arrest and if they say no, inform them that you are free to go until such time that I am arrested?

Also inform them to give you the written reason for being stopped; and if this is illegal sue them!
I think you are reading more into this than is actually there, Peter, with some third party hearsay. I have been present as a railway employee at a railway station where both police and UKBA officers are operating. It was an operation based on preventing forced prostitution and slavery. It was quite common for victims of such crime to people traffic using public transport. The problem was initially discovered by railway staff when inspecting the bearers of tickets for travel where the 'young persons discount' was being used without the required photo-card, a civil offence, usually initiating a civil penalty notice. However, these frightened victims were often presenting a UKBA 'right to remain ID immigration card' to railway staff which did not correspond with the bearer of the document. Police investigation found that even the discounted the travel ticket was purchased with a false instrument, usually a stolen credit card. The UKBA do have the right to retain and investigate instances where the 'right to remain immigration card' is being abused, and it was from this that victims of people trafficking were identified. In the instance I am aware of, this investigation resulted in the raiding of brothels in the midlands where gangs were forcing young girls into sex slavery and trafficking them across the country. Both the police and UKBA were able to free these victims and track down the traffickers. I suspect the operation on the intercity National Express routes was similar to that on the railways. I'm sure you will agree that this type of operation is justified. All those arrested for offences relating to abuse of immigration cards in other peoples names are given safe accommodation and the full protection of the law in the UK, and those traffickers which are identified, brought before the courts. Do you have a problem with this? Of course the real crux of the problem is that when a person is given 'the right to remain' having entered the country illegally, they then do not have the right of employment or benefits. They fall prey to gangmasters, slavery, prostitution and trafficking. I suggest to resolve the situation you make representations to YOUR LibDem colleagues in Westminster. It may result in the police and UKBA not having to target public transport to rescue victims.
I am anon 5.40 and having checked that the information is already in the public domain can expand on my point.

In 2008 South Wales Police working in tandem with UKBA raided brothels in Swansea and Bridgend and freed a number of trafficked persons. Part of the intelligence gained was as a result of checks at Swansea coach and Swansea railway station. The gangmaster was an Irish national who was convicted at Swansea Crown Court. The victims who were being trafficked (under false IDs) were given permanent right to remain in the UK under the EU Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, and accommodated safely by the statutory body responsible under the treaty, that of Swansea City Council.

Perhaps it was a posting on your blog to divert attention to the shambles your Westminster colleagues have made over funding UKBA and the cuts being made to police and immigration staff. I notice that you are (a) a councillor on Swansea Council, and (b) an AM for the area concerned. I appreciate your concern for stop and search and the question mark you placed in the title of this posting. It should be noted, however, a suspect can turn out to be a victim, and deporting is not the only work these agencies do.Will you now offer an apology both to the UKBA and the police for what you have termed "a very worrying development" ?

So what is some chopsy suit is a bit peeved to show a secondary ID at the bus station after his return from Africa.
I hope Liverpool is now as safe as Swansea.
Perhaps if more thorough searches are made of lorries arriving from the French mainland we wouldn't have so many illegal immigrants in the UK in addition to those "slaves" that Anon above talks about.

I'm sure there are brothels in Liverpool, like there is in Swansea, perhaps the Police & UKBA would be better employed raiding these places? Where these criminal activities take place, rather than infringing on people right to travel where they like in the UK as British Subjects.
Most of the 'illegals' picked up in lorries are via searches performed by the UKBA searches at their embarkation point which is in Calais. At this point they are returned to the French authorities but because they have not yet taken on their UK persona, and are not trying to stay in France and cannot be detained in France. They are released to try again. It is only if/when those that get through, who arrive in the UK, do they obtain false documentation like forged NI documents, cloned immigration cards, false passports and are fall prey to the domestic criminal gangs. While raiding brothels and slave houses is an option, this is where they are already victims. The best place to mount an operation of rescue is while they are being trafficked inside the UK, it is also where they have evidence upon them to detect and prosecute the traffickers, who are the real criminals. The rights of genuine EU citizens going about their lawful business at coach and railway stations are not infringed as explained in the safeguards already explained by others earlier in this blog discussion. I am not surprised by the Observer report that a UK citizen who presents a passport with recent entry stamp into the UK from Africa was subject to more detailed questioning.
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