Know Your Rights
IHRC has been empowering the community to know its rights since 1997. We have done this by distributing information leaflets and other literature, doing casework and delivering workshops up and down the country.
Download a summary of the main points.
What To Do If Your Premises Are Being Searched?
If your premises are being searched under a search warrant, you have the following rights:
- The right to remain silent
- The right to consult a solicitor of your choice for legal advice and representation
- The right to a copy of the search warrant
- The right to witness the search or have it witnessed by a friend, neighbour or another person
- The right to object to the seizure of certain confidential material, such as legitimate communication between you and your lawyer(s), personal medical records, journalistic material, etc.
If your consent is sought, you have the right to object to the search.
What To Do If You Are Arrested?
If you are arrested, you have the following rights (which, in our view, it is vital to exercise):
- The right to remain silent
- The right to consult a solicitor of your choice for free legal advice and representation
What To Do If You Are Asked To Assist On A Voluntary Basis?
If you are asked by the police or MI5 to assist with their enquiries on a voluntary basis, you should know the following:
- You are not under arrest
- You have the right to leave at anytime
- You have the right to remain silent
- You have the right to consult a solicitor of your choice for legal advice and representation
Whether you are asked to assist on a voluntary basis, or your premises are being searched, it is good practice to make an immediate note of the following:
- The officer or officers’ name(s) (or warrant or other identification numbers), police station and telephone number
- The time and place that you were contacted
- Anything that is said to you by the officer(s)
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the police to stop and search “suspects” for terrorism-related offences. This section provides information about its implementation and advice on what to in such circumstances.
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act is a legislated power which allows the interrogation, search and potential detention of individuals by police and immigration officers at ports and borders without reasonable cause or suspicion. Schedule 7 only applies to port and border areas. Based on this legislation, the government border or security officials can stop individuals to question, search or detain without the need for a prior authority or reasonable suspicion. The purpose is to determine whether the stopped person is involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of the acts of terrorism under Section 40 of Terrorism Act.
Where can you be stopped?
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the interrogation, search and potential detention of individuals by police and immigration officers at ports and borders, without reasonable cause or suspicion.
This means that you can be stopped:
- At a seaport, an airport or hoverport;
- At an international train station (i.e. London-St Pancras International, Ashford International and Ebbsfleet International);
- On an airplane, ship, hovercraft, or on an international train (including in a vehicle);
- At the Eurostar or Channel Tunnel terminals and stations in France and Belgium; and
- Within one mile of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or at the first train station in Northern Ireland for trains crossing the border.
You can also be stopped in any place where an officer believes that you have gone in order to embark or after having disembarked from any of these means of transport. This is likely to affect the surrounding areas of airports, hoverports, seaports and international train stations.
Who can stop you?
You can be stopped by any of the following:
- a police constable;
- an immigration officer; or
- a customs officer.
There is no requirement for these officers to be in uniform, and they will often be in civilian clothes. An officer may also authorise another person to carry out an examination or search on his or her behalf.
The examining officer must inform you whether the stop is under Schedule 7 and provide you with an information leaflet.
When can you be stopped?
Section 40(1)(b) of the Terrorism Act 2000 applies to a person who has been concerned with the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
An officer has the power to stop, question and detain a person in order to determine whether they fall within Section 40(1)(b). This is whether or not an officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that you fall in that category.
You cannot be stopped if the officer is aware that you are at a port for a purpose other than travel, such as if you are an employee at an airport or meeting a passenger.
What to do if you are stopped or searched
- You do not have to answer any questions until you have consulted a solicitor.
- If you would like free legal advice, the police must contact the Defence Solicitor Call Centre (DSCC). The call centre will contact either the duty solicitor or the solicitor you request.
- You do not have to answer any questions about other people’s behaviour as this would be beyond the powers of questioning under Schedule 7;
- If you are searched, you have a right to be searched by a person of the same gender.
- The search must take place in an area where you cannot be seen by anyone who does not need to be present nor by members of the opposite sex, except in cases such as:
- A strip search which involves exposing intimate body parts. In that case, at least two people must be present other than yourself.
- If, however, you are a not an adult, or suffer from a mental disorder or are mentally vulnerable, one of the people who must be present must be the appropriate adult (i.e. parent or guardian).
- Detainees who are searched will not have to remove all their clothes at the same time. For example, they are allowed to remove clothing above the waist and re-dress before removing further clothing.
You may be required to hold your arms in the air or stand with your legs apart and bend forward to assist the search, as the officers examine the intimate areas, as long as there is no contact.
- Remember that you are not under arrest at this stage.
- You have a right to have a relative or a friend notified of your detention. If you are transferred to or between police stations, you can only ask for this notification at the last place you are detained.
- You have a right to request a solicitor to represent you. You are entitled to consult with that solicitor as soon as is reasonably practical, in private and at any time. A senior officer can require you to be within the sight and hearing of a uniformed inspector.
- You have a right to be told of any delays in either of these processes.
- Take your fingerprints or intimate samples without your permission;
- Arrest you solely on the basis that you refuse to consent to your DNA being taken.
- Question you until you consult or no longer wish to consult a solicitor. However, if the examining officer reasonably believes that the time it would take to consult a solicitor in person would be likely to prejudice determination of relevant matters then the officer can require a consultation to commence immediately.
- You can be transferred to any place which the officer considers appropriate for examining you under Schedule 7, establishing your nationality or arranging your admission into the UK;
- You can be detained for up to 6 hours beginning with the time when you were first stopped under Schedule 7
- If they wish to extend your detention, a reviewing officer must allow either you or your solicitor to make either oral or written representations about the detention before authorising the prolonging of the detention. The reviewing officer can refuse to hear oral representations if the detained person is deemed unfit or due to the person’s condition or behaviour.
- You must be informed if you are going to be held for longer than 6 hours
- The Officer carrying out the review must keep a written record
- If detained at a police station, a Superintendent can authorise your fingerprints or non-intimate samples (such as your hair, nails, saliva or skin) to be taken without your consent if he or she is satisfied that this is necessary to determine whether you fall within s.40(1)(b). You must be informed of:
- this authorisation,
- the reasons why it was granted; and
- the offence you are suspected of having committed
Before the sample can be taken.
- DNA taken during a schedule 7 stop is placed on the UK National DNA database and Counter Terrorism DNA database.
- The Examining officer may:
- copy anything given to him or found during the search.
- copy anything which is in your possession, either a valid passport or another document which establishes your identity.
- ask whether you have with you specific documents and that you have to hand them over
- retain the copy of documents for as long as necessary for the purpose of determining whether you fall within the section 40(1)(b) category.
The copies of documentation can be used as evidence in criminal proceedings or used for the Secretary of State to decide whether to issue a deportation order if you are not a UK citizen.
What to do if you are stopped, detained or questioned by security services while travelling or at any UK port under Schedules 7 and 8 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Things To Keep In Mind
Being stopped under Schedule 7 does not mean you have or are suspected of having committed a crime. You are not a criminal and have done nothing wrong.
If you are able to, note down the examining officer’s warrant numbers, department/police force and a detailed account of what happened, what questions were asked and the responses provided.
You do not have to answer any questions about things that are not related to “the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”. This means you do not have to answer questions about other people’s behaviour, your religious beliefs, your job etc. as this would be beyond the powers of questioning under Schedule 7.
If you are approached by an MI5 officers, you are not legally required to answer their questions. If they ask you to spy on their behalf or meet them again, you can decline. If they insist, ask to speak with a solicitor present.
The above was correct at the time of printing. The government has proposed a number of changes to Schedule 7. Please consult our online version for any changes/updates.
Right To Record
In the events of stop and search and stop and account, persons have the right to record the police actions. This section provides information about the importance of recording encounters with the police and gives advice on best practice.
Why record the police encounters?
The right to record is particularly important as it provides a context for both the police and the stopped persons to behave in the best possible way by observing the relevant laws and regulations. Being in a position of power and knowing that no one else is witnessing the event, the police may use excessive force in case of stop and search. The police may also behave in a threatening and abusive way. The right to record is an assurance for the stopped persons that they will be treated respectfully and lawfully. If the police act unlawfully, they the detained person will have the evidence to document this police misconduct.
How to record?
Given the sensitivity of these situations, stopped persons need to act sensibly and calmly so that the police do not feel threatened. Most importantly, before reaching for their mobile phones, stopped persons should inform the police that they wish to record the encounter. They then should record police actions and possibly the place where it occurs.
Third parties also have the right to record, and they are advised to record mostly the police but it is advisable that they briefly record the individual who is being stopped for identification purposes. However, the police may try to stop third parties from filming by stating that it amounts to breach of privacy of the person being stopped by the police. In this case, obtaining the oral consent of the person would override the breach of privacy argument. It is best to have more than one camera recording, so if there are more people witnessing the stop and search they should also record it. If the situation escalates between the police and stopped person, the third party should remain calm and focus on the filming. It is crucial to continue the filming and not to get involved in the incident.
If the police claim that you are obstructing their duty, you need to move back a little and continue with the recording. It is your right to record and the police cannot stop you doing so. Even if nothing is happening, it is advisable to continue with the recording. It is important to record identity numbers of the police officers who are carrying out the stop and search. These numbers can be found on the shoulders and it is helpful to read the numbers aloud while filming them. It is also advisable to read aloud the date and location of the incident. The identity of the location where the incident took place is crucial to subsequent escalations so you should try to film a nearby landmark, street name or shop name. When filming, try to keep the camera still and yourself still, do not move around too much so that you can capture good quality video footage. It is important to exchange contact details with the stopped person so that you may provide the person with the video footage afterwards. When you leave the place of the incident, you should immediately back up the recording.
In the face of increased raids and stops and checks in public places by police on people thought to be illegal immigrants, IHRC is reposting advice from the Anti-Raids Network for all those affected or concerned about the stops.
- If the person doubts you, advise them to ask the officer if it’s true – immigration officers are meant to tell people this themselves before stopping them
- Remind the officers of the law
- Film the incident, where possible asking the person stopped if that’s
ok, or just filming the officers involved. This may be useful in making a
claim in the event of an unlawful stop or arrest.
- Record the lapel numbers of the officers involved
- Make other members of the public aware of what’s happening
- Get witnesses’ contact details if the stop leads to an arrest or the
person wants to pursue it afterwards
- Attempt to pass on a phone number to the individual if you think the
stop will lead to arrest. Possible useful numbers include Soas Detainee Support: 07438407570 or Bail for Immigration Detainees: 020 7456 9750
- Note that physically obstructing officers may put you at risk of arrest for obstruction (a minor offence).
If you want to refer to their guidance when speaking to Immigration Officers, everything can be found in the Home Office Enforcement Visits guidance (formerly, Chapter 31 UKBA Operational Enforcement Manual).
Protect yourself, defend your friends and neighbours. Share, download and distribute our, double-sided cards on what to do during immigration raids (updated March 2017).
If you see someone being stopped
If you see someone being stopped by UKBA officers or police on immigration grounds, and your immigration status does not put you at risk yourself, it is recommended that you:
Immediately make the person aware that they do not have to answer questions and that they can leave
You can also contact IHRC for support – our caseworkers can assist you to make complaints against the police and signpost relevant legal advice if required.
All information reported to IHRC is treated in the strictest confidence and no information will be passed on to any third party without your consent.
Report It Now
How To Find a Solicitor
If you have been arrested or you want advice around being stopped and searched, including under Schedule 7, please contact the following:
Tel: 020 8893 5000
Emergency No: 07866 107 034
14 Inverness Street, London, NW1 7HJ
Tel: 0207 911 0166