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Repeal Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000

Comment 22nd July 2010

Most people are unaware that everytime they enter an airport of seaport as a passenger they risk being detained without charge (or for that matter reason) for up to nine hours. Police and UK Borders also have the power to seize any documents you have with you and keep these for seven days. They do NOT have to suspect that you are a terrorist or committing a criminal offence. If you do not co-operate with them (e.g. by answering their questions), you could be sent to prison for six months.

These draconian powers were introduced by Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which also provides for 'carding' – which means that you can be required by UK Borders to provide them with full details of your travel plans, including the addresses of places you will stay. Failure to provide this information can result in 3 months imprisonment. You can also be imprisoned for providing information which subsequently proves to be false.

By virtue of the UK's membership of the European Union all UK citizens have a right to freedom of movement within the EU. These Schedule 7 powers are in direct conflict with this right. Schedule 7 is also in direct conflict with Article 5 (the right not to be arrested without just cause) and Article 8 (the right to privacy) of the European Convention on Human Rights (an international obligation which was agreed after WWII to prevent the re-emergence of Nazism and which Winston Churchill was instrumental in creating).

Speaking of Nazism, these Schedule 7 powers are worthy of the Gestapo, or for that matter the Stasi (in communist E Germany). It has always been a cornerstone of the law in democratic countries that people cannot be arrested and their property seized purely on the whim of an official. But Schedule 7 allows precisely that. It is the kind of law that dictators and despots introduce. And we are all at risk every time we travel across our borders.

There seems to be no reliable information about how often these powers have been used. But I found out about them following an incident at the UK immigration controls in Calais last year. Returning from a few days in Austria by car, the UK Borders officer decided not to readmit me to my own country automatically, but my passport was taken away from me to be examined by other officials in a back office. Subsequently large amounts of information were typed into a computer. When I asked what was happening I was told that was none of my business. I remarked that I had just driven 1000 miles across Europe without so much as attracting a glance from a police officer, to which the officer said "It's not like this here". She subsequently said that she had been up-dating my 'immigration history'.

All this came as quite a surprise to me. I am a 60 year old Britsh Citizen who was born in the UK and have lived here for most of my life. I have no criminal convictions and have never been arrested, or as far as I know, suspected of a criminal offence. I complained to several people, including UK Borders. As a result, some-one (I can't remember who) sent me a flyer from Kent Police which explained the Schedule 7 powers. It tells people using the port of Dover that they are liable to arrest and having their possessions confiscated for no reason at all. I could not believe that a police force in a democratic country could be issuing such a document.

This is all part of the climate of fear that was engendered by the last Government. Of course international terrorism is a threat to us all, but these laws seem to be designed to frighten and intimidate ordinary law-abiding citizens; to put them in fear of authority and the arbitary exercise of power. They are laws that are worthy of a totalitarian state. They have no place here.

They should be repealed forthwith.

Why does this matter?

Repeal Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. This law is an outrageous assault on basic civil liberties.

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