‘Schedule 7’ of the Terrorism Act 2000 is a power that allows the police (as well as customs and immigration officers – “etc”) to question you in places like airports without the right to silence. For a long time, Schedule 7 powers have been used disproportionately against Muslims, and people the police perceive as Muslim. Activists have recently seen an increase in these powers being used against them because of their political beliefs. The police (etc.) use it as an excuse to stop us at airports, in order to harass us and gather intelligence. While there may not be a right to silence under Schedule 7, we still have far more rights than the police (etc.) let on, and many of the questions they have been asking are not ones that we have to answer…
What is Schedule 7?
If you are travelling through a port (airport, seaport, etc), then ‘Schedule 7’ the police (etc.) to stop and question you in order to determine whether you are involved in “terrorism”. They do not need to have any reason to suspect you – it can be used on anyone. If this happens, then your belongings can be searched and confiscated for up to seven days, you must give them any information or documents that they ask for, and you must answer any questions relating to “potential involvement in commission, preparation or instigation of any acts of terrorism”. Searching belongings also means they can look through your phone for contacts, messages, etc. There is technically no right to silence when stopped under Schedule 7. The police (etc.) will tell you that you have a “duty” to answer questions and that if you don’t co-operate you could be arrested and charged with and offence.
It is important to know that if the police (etc.) are asking you basic, what they call, “screening” question, this does not fall within Schedule 7. This means that no offence is committed for refusing to co-operate (but if they are suspicious of you, they could use this as an excuse to up the ante).
If you willfully fail to comply with Schedule 7, this could land you with up to three months in jail (maximum) and/or a fine. The wording of the law is: “A person commits an offence if he (a) wilfully fails to comply with a duty imposed under or by virtue of this Schedule (b)wilfully contravenes a prohibition imposed under or by virtue of this Schedule, or (c)wilfully obstructs, or seeks to frustrate, a search or examination under or by virtue of this Schedule.” There may be exceptions (for example, that you did not “wilfully” fail to comply, because you were tired after a long flight), but these have NOT been tested in court. That said, Bristol Defendant Solidarity does know of people who have refused to answer any questions at all, and still not been charged with an offence.
If you are NOT ‘detained’ under Schedule 7 (ie you are just being questioned at the port), then they can only question you for a maximum of ONE HOUR. At any point during this time they may decide to detain you – which gives you more rights, but also means they can hold you for a maximum of SIX HOURS.
If you are questioned (and not formally detained) under Schedule 7:
- DON’T BE INTIMIDATED – you have rights, stand your ground
- ASK QUESTIONS – just like any other encounter with police, ask things like: “am I being detained?”, “under what power?”, and “am I free to leave?”. Make them clarify exactly what is going on and why.
- ASK FOR A SOLICITOR – you can REQUEST to speak to a solicitor, which police MAY grant at their discretion. If they refuse, they must note the reason why. The latest codes of practice state that “Where reasonably practicable, a consultation should be allowed”. They may tell you that you will have to pay – don’t worry about this, the recommended solicitors will not charge you for advice given over the phone. We suggest you ask to speak to one of the following solicitors:
- Kellys – 01273 674 898/0800 387 463
- Hodge Jones & Allen – 0800 437 032
- DON’T ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE – they are not allowed to question you about the behaviour or actions of other people. If in doubt, ask your solicitor
- BE VAGUE – they are only meant to ask you questions related to terrorism. They are unlikely to push you to be clearer about your beliefs or personal life
If you are DETAINED under Schedule 7:
- You may be held for a maximum of six hours
- You may have your photo taken without your consent, and in some circumstances your fingerprints and DNA. They can use “reasonable” force to do this. But they cannot take “intimate” samples (eg blood)
- You have the right to speak with a solicitor in person, this time at public expense
- They CANNOT start to question you until the solicitor arrives, so long as it will not “prejudice the purpose of the examination”. However, waiting for a solicitor may take a long time. Get them to call one close by, for example:
- Kellys may be able to attend Gatwick airport
- Hodge Jones & Allen may be able to attend airports near London (Heathrow, Stansted, etc)
- You should be given a “Notice of Detention” explaining your rights – if are not given one, ask for it!
- You have the right to have someone informed of your detention
- If you are a citizen of a country other than the UK, police must inform your embassy when asked
- If you think there is a good chance you might be stopped, you could always contact a lawyer in advance and get them to be on standby
What is an Interview Like?
Unlike interviews on arrest, recordings of the interviews are only made when the equipment is available, otherwise only notes are used. In an ideal world, non-compliance with the questioning would be a good thing for everyone to do. However many people have chosen to answer the questions for practical reasons, mainly to do with wishing to continue their journey and not being held for 6 hours. Interviews have ranged from vague questioning by seemingly clueless port police to aggressive and intimidatory questioning by anti-terrorism officers, so people’s experiences have varied. One thing that they have in common is that the questioning is speculative – if they had reason to suspect you of a particular crime then they probably would have arrested you for it – they are after information on you and your friends and comrades.
- Corporate Watch statement on Schedule 7 – http://www.corporatewatch.org/content/february-27-2013-schedule-7-terrorism-act-2000-police-snooping-tool-protect-private-profit
- Briefing from the Islamic Human Rights Commission (outdated when checked on 03/06/2015) – http://www.ihrc.org.uk/activities/alerts/10669-know-your-rights-schedule-7
- NetPol advice for people travelling to the UK (outdated when checked on 03/06/2015) – https://netpol.org/2013/05/17/advice-for-people-entering-the-uk-for-g8-protests/
- Text of the law (outdated when checked on 03/06/2015) – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/11/schedule/7
- Latest code of practise – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-examining-officers-and-review-officers-under-schedule-7-to-the-terrorism-act-2000
Disclaimer – The law is constantly changing. To the best of our knowledge, this briefing is correct as of 06/06/2015. Our information is based on the “Code of practice for examining officers and review officers under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000” published on March 2015. Bristol Defendant Solidarity are not lawyers and this should not be considered as legal advice.