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“You could go to jail if you don’t answer my questions!” – Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is real and its effects are staggering (11 July 2017)

Date: 11/07/2017


Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, “You could go to jail if you don’t answer my questions!” – Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is real and its effects are staggering

Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is a breathtakingly broad and intrusive power to stop, search and hold individuals at sea and, airports and international rail stations.

It can be exercised without the need for any grounds of suspecting the person has any involvement in terrorism – or any other criminal activity. A passenger can be held for questioning for up to 6 hours and those detained must "give the examining officer any information in his possession which the officer requests". They have no right to remain silent or receive legal advice.

What makes this power different to most is that there is no requirement for any “reasonable suspicion” as is the case with most police powers when people are arrested. Or to put another way, it can be used without the need for any grounds. It is narrower in geographical terms than the old s44 (which allowed officers to arbitrarily stop and search anyone), as its affect is restricted to sea and airports.

The schedule allows for searches and retention of property without grounds and at its core is the notion that you must answer the questions that are put to you. There is no disclosure of the information to any representative, and while lawyers can be contacted, their role is limited. There are often good reasons why people should remain silent but often the perception is, “well, the only reason he/she is saying nothing is because they are guilty”. What about the vulnerable, suggestable adult who on the surface appears to engage but really just wishes to be compliant? The person with mental health issues? Or those who are still below the age of 18? There are some safeguards but none of these allow the person to say nothing.

The police, home office or immigration authorities cannot physically force someone to speak – so how does the legislation deal with this? By the bluntest tool possible. If you do not answer their questions you will be committing a criminal offence, for which you could go to jail! We have three strands of government: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Their powers and functions are separated as each acts as a check or balance against the other. In this instance, there is no check or balance against the use of this power. It is ripe for misuse and discrimination. The UK is not a country with a poor human rights record. In fact, it is often cited as a beacon to those where conflicts reign as the archetype to emulate and yet we have, in my view, a law that sweeps aside the safeguards that we hold dear. Those who argue for its retention say these powers are essential but the current police powers regarding search of property and interviewing are more than sufficient to deal with all situations.

We are in danger of sweeping up a lot of innocent people, who become disconnected from and upset at the state. The current statistics on the demographics of people interviewed, while quite old, tell us that 77% of those stopped were from BME groups.

David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has stated;

“People should not be stopped, let alone examined, simply because officers are present and have nothing better to do....It is for the public authorities to demonstrate the proportionality of the powers that it exercises... in view of the suspicion and resentment that is engendered by the operation of Schedule 7 in certain communities.”

Until there is a change in the law, people will continue to be stopped without justification and it is regrettably left to lawyers to try and ensure their rights are safeguarded. If you wish to talk about being stopped and interviewed and how we may be able to assist contact criminal defence specialist Rubin Italia of Duncan Lewis Solicitors on 07500013118 or at rubini@duncanlewis.com

Director & Solicitor Advocate, Rubin Italia specialises in criminal defence work in a broad range of offences from minor road traffic cases to murder, rape, extradition and serious complex crime, including large-scale drug conspiracies and complex immigration-related crimes. Rubin has a significant practice defending clients with mental health problems with insanity defence cases; he continues to represent a number of clients at Broadmoor. His fraud practice includes defending cases investigated and prosecuted by the National Crime Agency (previously SOCA), HMRC, the Serious Fraud Office, UK Borders Agency, Economic Crime Units, the DWP, local authorities and Trading Standards. He has a niche focus in immigration related fraud, ‘cuckoo smurfing’ money laundering cases, high-value confiscation proceedings and benefit/tax fraud defence work. Rubin deals with full range of criminal offences from police station representation up to Crown Court trials, appeals and judicial review. Rubin has been recognised by Chambers UK as a Leader in his field.