What is Schedule 7?
In a nutshell, it is the power allowing border officers to stop, question, and detain anyone they believe “is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.” [2000 TACT, Para 40 (1)(B)] The officer may search the individual, anything in his possession, whether it be on his person, on a ship or plane, or in the individual’s vehicle.
Until last August, most Britons had never heard of Schedule 7. Suddenly, the powers contained in the 2000 Terrorism Act’s little-known subsection came to light amid questions of national security, freedom of the press, and the potential abuse of power. While on layover at Heathrow, UK Border Agents detained and questioned journalist David Miranda for nearly 9 hours, under the authority granted by Schedule 7. His property (i.e. laptops, hard drives, USB memory sticks) was also confiscated for further examination. His partner, Glenn Greenwald (among others), has published damning reports of US and UK government policies, based on intelligence leaked by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden. UK authorities allege Miranda was carrying “stolen” data. Critics maintain that Miranda’s detention was an abuse of the law, which was intended to stop and detain persons involved in terrorism, not stifle freedom of the press. Recently, the High Court ruled in favor of the government’s claim that the purpose of stopping Mr. Miranda “fell properly within Schedule 7 of the 2000 Act on the latter’s true construction.”
The 2014 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act includes an overhaul of Schedule 7’s operation:
- Reducing the maximum period of examination from nine to six hours;
- Extending to individuals detained at a port the statutory rights to have a person informed of their detention and to consult a solicitor privately;
- Ensuring access to legal advice for all individuals examined for more than one hour;
- Clarifying that the right to consult a solicitor includes consultation in person;
- Introducing statutory review of the need for continued detention;
- Introducing a statutory requirement for training of examining and reviewing officers;
- Establishing a statutory basis for undertaking strip searches to require suspicion that the person is concealing something which may be evidence that the person is involved in terrorism and a supervising officer’s authority;
- Repealing the power to seek intimate samples (e.g. blood, semen); and
- Providing expressly that an examining officer may make and retain a copy of information obtained or found in the course of an examination.