PHYSICAL CONTROLS AT UNITED KINGDOM PORTS:
POLICING UNDER THE PREVENTION OF TERRORISM (TEMPORARY PROVISIONS)
1. Police controls exist at all main ports (which
include both air and passenger seaports and the Channel Tunnel)
for law enforcement purposes. These controls, as opposed to any
police presence for security purposes, are operated by the Special
Branch of the relevant force in whose area the port is situated.
In all force areas countering the threat from terrorism is the
most important single function of the Special Branch.
2. Control coverage includes international
routes as well as routes, both by air and sea, between Great Britain,
Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Both arrival and
departure movements are liable to be the subject of police checks.
Operational responsibility for the policing at ports rests with
the relevant Chief Constable.
3. The presence of Special Branch officers
at ports is an integral aspect of their counter-terrorist role.
Their task is to seek and gather information, identify persons
of interest and generally offer support for counter-terrorism
operations. In doing so they work closely with other agencies
at the ports and exercise the powers of "examining officers"
under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989
4. Special Branch officers at ports also
contribute to more general policing work in a number of ways including
interception of children being removed from the country in breach
of the Child Abduction Act or in defiance of civil court orders,
the detection of offences, the arrest of wanted criminals and
the recovery of stolen property.
5. The port controls under the PTA derive
from section 16 and schedule 5 to the Act. Paragraph one of that
schedule provides that "constables" are for the purposes
of the PTA "examining officers". As such they have powers
to examine people arriving or leaving Great Britain or Northern
Ireland for the purposes of determining whether someone appears
to be a person who is or has been concerned in the commission,
preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. There are further
provisions within the schedule which provide for associated powers.
The main ones are to require the production of documents, the
powers of search (both individuals and vehicles), to require the
completion of arrival/departure cards (except where they are required
under the Immigration Act) and powers of detention.
6. Paragraph 1 of schedule 5 also provides
for immigration officers to be examining officers under the Act.
In practice, however, port powers under the PTA are exercised
by police who have primacy in counter-terrorism matters under
the PTA working with others such as HM Customs and Excise and
the Immigration Service, sharing resources and information as
applicable. For example:
at major international ports the
physical control points will often be co-terminus with the primary
there is joint police/customs/immigration
co-operation on CCTV development at some of the major airports
in collaboration with the relevant airport authority;
ANPR systems are shared with HM Customs
7. Operation of the PTA which, subject to
Parliamentary approval, is renewable annually is reviewed independently
by Mr J J Rowe QC. An extract from his 1999 review is attached
at Annex A
for reference; and at Annex B* is a table from the report which
sets out details of the number of people examined for more than
one hour but not detained.
8. The Terrorism Bill currently before Parliament
is intended to replace the PTA. Although it amends the powers
exercised at ports and provides additional safeguards for people
examined or detained under these powers, the present provisions
are broadly carried forward into the Bill so as to preserve the
police counter-terrorist capacity at ports. The Bill also provides
for improved information sharing between the police, Immigration
Service and HM Customs and work continues through the Border Agencies
Working Group to explore the scope for better joint use of facilities
and equipment at ports.
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