Memorandum by the Association of Chief
POLICE PORT UNITS
1. ACPO Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee
(ACPO TAM) has the principal responsibility for overseeing the
work of Police Port Units. The officers who staff the Police Port
Units come under the umbrella of the Special Branch of the Force
in whose area a Port Unit is situated. Special Branch Officers
have been posted to ports since 1884. Those officers were from
the Metropolitan Police Special Branch although, in 1969, with
the creation of the National Ports Scheme, some 30 sea and airports
around the country were staffed by Special Branch Units from 17
Police Forces. Following the expansion of the National Ports Scheme
in the 1970s and 1980s, Forces recruited generalist uniform and
CID officers, as well as Special Branch staff, to work as Port
Control Officers although the Port Units were still under the
supervision of the various Force Special Branches.
2. There are currently 60 ports in the United
Kingdom designated under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
They comprise 23 seaports and 37 airports. There are numerous
other smaller airports (landing strips) and seaports (quays/harbours)
which, from time to time, are visited (monitored) by staff from
the various Police Port Units. Of the 60 designated ports, some
are staffed full-time by Police Port Officers; others are part-time
or as the need arises, according to vessel/aircraft movements.
3. The 60 designated ports principally cover
the main air/sea passenger routes between the UK and international
destinations and the common travel area routes. Police Port Units
vary significantly in size and workfrom the major international
air and sea ports like Heathrow and Dover to the smaller part-time
Port Units like Cambridge Airport and Troon.
4. Passenger throughput monitored by police
also varies enormously. During 1999-2000 over 220 million passengers
passed through the various Port Units in the United Kingdom, either
entering or leaving the country. Some of the Police Port Units
deal with both international and common travel area traffic whilst
others deal only with one category of traveller (eg CTA or International).
Those are usually the sea ports, depending on their location (west
coast or east/south coast).
5. ACPO TAM oversees the work of Police
Port Units and the principal focus of that Committee is counter-terrorism,
subversion, espionage and other forms of extremism, including
public order issues. A significant amount of the work of Police
Port Units, however, spans the interest of other ACPO Committees,
eg Crime and Road Policing Committees.
6. The presence of Special Branch Officers
(police 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 so doing, they work closely with other agencies
at the ports and exercise the powers of examining officers under
the Prevention of Terrorism Legislation. Police officers at ports
also contribute to more general policing work in a number of ways,
including the 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.
7. Ports are our first and last line of
defence against terrorism and other criminality. ACPO acknowledges
the need to balance the interest of the citizen against the right
of the State to protect itself and its citizens. In ACPO's view,
that encompasses the right to "police" its frontiers
to combat crime, safeguard its revenue, implement its immigration
policy and protect its public health, whilst acknowledging the
requirements of ECHR and our membership of the European Union.
8. Effective physical controls at UK ports
of entry can assist in combating each of the potential threats.
However, such controls are only likely to be effective, bearing
in mind the vast numbers of passengers passing through UK ports,
if proper procedures are in place and there are sufficient trained
staff having adequate powers to implement them.
9. The police experience in recent years
has been that in spite of the combined efforts of the three Border
Agencies in their respective roles, the effectiveness of our port
controls and, therefore, the deterrent effect of them, has diminished.
10. The statutory powers of police officers
staffing Police Port Units are principally contained in Schedule
7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. However, those powers are limited
to countering terrorism. Other general police powers, principally
contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), the
various local Port Authority Regulations, etc, and, of course,
the powers at common law are also available to Police Officers
11. The status of "examining officers"
contained in Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act is also conferred
upon an Immigration Officer and a Custom's Officer, who is designated
for the purpose of Schedule 7 by the Secretary of State and the
Commissioners of Customs and Excise. It is interesting to note
that Police Officers do not have similar reciprocal status/powers
conferred on them by the Immigration and Asylum Act and the Customs
12. Police Port Unit Officers liaise closely
with colleagues in the HMIS and HMCE, as well as with the representatives
of the various Port Authorities and Carrying Companies. Without
such liaison, effective police coverage at the various Port Units
would be seriously curtailed.
13. In the past, Police Port Officers adopted
work practices which involved police officers shadowing Immigration
Officers at both the embarkation and arrival controls at ports.
A more roving liaison was maintained with HMCE colleagues at Customs
controls. However, as the volume of passenger traffic grew and
HMIS/HMCE tactics at controls changed, such working practices
became untenable, at least at the larger ports and, invariably,
now much of the police work at ports is intelligence-driven. That
presumes the availability of as much intelligence/information
on travellers as possible, using profiling techniques on both
likely suspects, either individually or as a type, together with
the closer monitoring of air/sea routes assessed to be in a higher
risk category than others, either from terrorist suspects or other
14. Great emphasis is placed upon the rapid
exchange of accurate information between the various Police Forces
and the National Police Agencies, National Criminal Intelligence
Service/National Crime Squad (NCIS/NCS) and their port counterparts.
Also the ready and expeditious exchange of information between
the various Border Agencies and Police, as well as between police
and the Port Authorities/Carrying Companies, is vital to successful
police operations at ports.
15. Physical controls at UK ports of entry
and exit rely on the effective inter-relationships between police,
HMIS and HMCE. The overlap between certain forms of criminality,
illegal immigration, smuggling, etc. is sometimes significant,
particularly when similar "players" become involved
in those activities. For example, the Dover experience, as related
in the response from Chief Constable of Kent, is that persons
involved in organised crime are now moving into the realm of illegal
immigration, contraband/smuggling etc. Sometimes the distinctions
may become so blurred that it is crucial that the Border Agencies,
although having a clearly defined role in such activities, liaise
closely to pool intelligence, information, ideas, strategies,
tactics, and resources (both human and otherwise) to combat a
common evil. That is the principal rationale for the tri-service
MoU (see later).
16. Over the years, effective liaison arrangements
have developed between the three Border Agencies at both local
and national levels. They are broadly effective in "ironing
out" local problems and dealing with matters of mutual interest
between the three Border Agencies, as well as the Port Authorities
and Carrying Companies, whilst having some impact on more strategic
issues at a national level. However, it would be wrong to assume
that all problems have been resolved. Queries about the legality
of the unfettered and continuous access to and exchange of data
and information on passengers between the Border Agencies have
arisen in recent years, principally as a result of data protection
legislation. More recently ECHR issues have been raised concerning
those matters. Although recent immigration and asylum legislation
and provisions within the new Terrorism Act and the Customs Management
Acts all give powers to each agency to seek information from passengers
in the furtherance of their specific duties, the ready exchange
of such information between agencies, in practice, does not appear
to be working well. Much of the day to day work of Police Port
Units, as far as exchange of information with the other Border
Agencies is concerned, still relies on the "old pals act"
and there are real concerns about the legality of the exchange
of information in such a way.
17. Unless this issue is met head on, whether
or not by primary legislation, then, in ACPO's view, the effective
and efficient work of Police Port Units, as well as we suspect
the work of HMIS and HMCE, will be affected. It is important that
this issue receives high priority in any consideration of the
work of Port Controls/Agencies at UK ports of entry. Effective
gateway provisions for the exchange of such data are essential.
18. The importance of effective liaison
between Police Port Units and the other Border Agencies was recognised
15 years ago during a comprehensive inspection of Police Port
Units in the UK by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary (J.H.
Brownlow, CBE, QPM) following recommendations made by Earl Jellicoe
in his review of the then Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions)
Act 1976. The HMI's report recommended the creation of the post
of "National Co-ordinator of Police Port Units". A principal
function of the NCPP, which was introduced in 1987, was to advise
Chief Constables, the HMI and Home Office, on both operational
and support functions of Police Port Units, with a view to enhancing
the efficiency and effectiveness of such work both locally and
nationally. The NCPP, an ACPO officer (currently ACC Fred Newton)
is a member of the ACPO Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee.
As well as his police contacts, he liaises closely with senior
officials in HMIS, HMCE, the Home Office and other Government
Departments involved in port work. He also works closely with
the various Port Authorities and a range of other organisations/agencies
similarly involved. Although the Chief Constables of the 51 Forces
in the United Kingdom are directly responsible for the work of
their own Police Port Units, the NCPP acts as an advisor, trouble-shooter
and spokesman for the Police Service on a variety of issues affecting
the work of Police Port Units.
19. Arising from his work and concerns voiced
by the other agencies about the need for closer co-operation between
the Police, HMIS and HMCE at ports, in 1997, the three agencies
agreed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance that co-operation
and closer working at the various port units around the country.
ACPO TAM and Crime Committees, together with the National Criminal
Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad, were involved,
on behalf of police, in the preparation of the Memorandum of Understanding
which covered the broad spectrum of work of the three agencies.
It included, for instance, agreement to share accommodation, equipment
(CCTV etc) and, as appropriate, information concerning those matters
of interest to the respective agencies.
20. The Memorandum of Understanding was
instrumental in enhancing the co-operation at both a national
and local level between the Border Agencies. A tri-service working
group was also formed to oversee those issues. The Border Agencies
Working Group meets bi-monthly and, in turn, is overseen by the
Border Agencies Directors Meeting, which is held twice a year
with the chairmanship of that meeting revolving amongst Police,
21. Much of its work over the past three
years has been to explore and enhance the opportunities for joint
working between the three Border Agencies (Police, HMIS and HMCE).
It has enhanced the co-operation and close working of the three
agencies and the various initiatives pursued by the Border Agencies
Working Group have improved the liaison between the three agencies.
An excellent example of this is shared CCTV coverage between HMCE
and police at several ports of entry. However, its fairly loose
structural composition and intermittent meetings do not fully
embrace the needs of the three agencies nor, indeed, explore and
develop joint working arrangements to the fullest. There may be
a tendency, for instance, to focus on initiatives of greater interest
to the particular agency, who hold the chairmanship at any given
time rather than genuinely pursue joint partnership working initiatives
to the benefit of all.
22. ACPO TAM, therefore, consulted its members
and invited comments on these issues. There is no agreed ACPO
policy on how Police Port Units should integrate their work with
HMIS and HMCE and views received from ACPO colleagues differ on
how best to progress these issues. On balance, three broad views
(i) those who feel a single Border
Agency would be the best option, provided a sound business case
can be made;
(ii) those who feel the system
as it is generally works (the status quo), although some improvements
may be needed to enhance current liaison arrangements between
the border agencies;
(iii) those who, although favouring
the retention of the three Border Agencies, feel that a more fundamental
change is needed to the current liaison arrangements.
23. Comments received on those three views
can be encapsulated as follows:
(i) A single Border Agency
ACPO acknowledges that the establishment of
a single Border Agency would require legislation and a significant
change in the way physical port controls are currently managed.
Although attractive in a broad strategic sense,
it is not clear what precise cost benefit would accrue and before
any move in such a direction is taken, ACPO believes that a full
business case would be necessary. A few ACPO colleagues support
the view of the Chief Constable of Kent in citing the potential
economies of scale, greater cohesion of operations and unity of
command of a single agency.
ACPO recognises that each Service has different
responsibilities and different priorities. The expertise, powers
and legislation available to each Service, as mentioned in this
paper, are also different.
In connection with a business case, it is interesting
to note that Jersey Police commissioned a Service review by Deloitte
and Touche Consultants to consider the various aspects of customs,
immigration and policing in port work. I understand that the review
carried out on behalf of the Jersey Customs and Excise, Immigration
and Nationality Departments, and the States of Jersey Police,
followed two earlier and separate reviews on customs and immigration,
which examined their efficiency and effectiveness. On both those
occasions, the amalgamation/merging issue was raised but faltered,
as did the latest review; one comment was that cost savings were
unlikely to be significant. Although on a much smaller scale and
focused specifically on Jersey, some of the principles within
the review impact upon the issues being considered in this current
inquiry of the HAC and the Committee may wish to have sight of
(ii) Status quo with some improvements to
current liaison arrangements
For the reasons mentioned in the body of this
report, some ACPO colleagues favour this option. Liaison has greatly
improved in recent years between the three agencies and working
relationships are generally good to excellent. ACPO colleagues
supporting this option consider there is actually a strength in
their diversity of experience and knowledge, together with the
slightly different powers available to the existing agencies.
The emerging potential effects of the Schengen
Agreement for the UK has raised concerns about easier travel within
the Schengen area for terrorist suspects and criminals alike.
Police action on proposals for the UK to have access to the Schengen
Information System is currently being led on behalf of ACPO by
John Abbott, Director General of NCIS, who reports to both ACPO
TAM and Crime Committee. Effective access by police to the Schengen
Information System, as well as enhanced access to Passenger Manifest
Information, are two crucial aspects upon which improved liaison
arrangements are necessary.
With the benefits accruing from the MoU and
resultant improved joint working of the three agencies, some ACPO
colleagues feel that the status quo is appropriate, although improvements
to the current liaison arrangements may be necessary.
In that respect, colleagues have remarked upon
the need for improved joint working outside normal port protocols.
British Transport Police in particular give an example of the
specific MoU negotiated between the Border Agencies during the
1998 Football World Cup and Euro 2000. Both events required a
substantial policing operation which entailed BTP and other police
officers from Home Office Forces closely liaising with the French
and Belgian authorities and their frontier agencies.
Recent legislation on people travelling out
of the UK who are suspected of certain offences (violence and
football hooligans) will only enhance the need for greater co-operation
between the various Border Agencies in this country and their
respective counterparts abroad.
ACPO colleagues who support the status quo option
point to the "it ain't broken so don't mend it" theory
and comment that enhanced liaison arrangements would be more cost
effective than the more radical option of a single Border Agency.
(iii) Retaining the three Border Agencies
but with some form of joint intelligence cell/unit staffed by
representatives from Police, HMIS and HMCE.
ACPO colleagues who support this option point
to the success of other joint ventures involving Police, HMCE,
Immigration and the Intelligence Services, principally focused
on the work within the National Criminal Intelligence Service.
A joint intelligence cell, possibly located
within NCIS would provide significant benefits on the sharing
of intelligence, as well as operational strategies and tactics,
across a broad spectrum of the work of each particular Border
Agency, eg organised crime, illegal immigration, smuggling, contraband,
etc. It is also strongly suggested that such an approach would
be a major step in the right direction towards more integrated
Border Agency working, which would enhance and complement the
need for "information gateways" inherent in the new
terrorism and immigration legislation. A number of ACPO colleagues
feel such an option would provide an extension to the current
joint working arrangements but significantly "beef up"
a joint and unified focus for combined working, rather than a
different emphasis being given to differing priorities by the
respective agencies as at present.
It would also help to enhance better use of
technology with a more unified focus being applied to such equipment
as CCTV, Automatic Number Plate Recognition Systems, other digital
recording systems (eg 3D facial mapping) and more joined up working
in respect of sophisticated detection equipment (both for identifying
human and other cargo). Essentially, the proposal for a national
joint intelligence cell builds upon the initiatives undertaken
locally in some Forces where such joint units have been used to
In short, it could also provide the effective
and enhanced liaison arrangements envisaged by colleagues who
support the status quo in option (ii) as well as providing a possible
springboard for a more radical merger of the three Border Agencies,
if and when such an option was deemed appropriateboth from
a supportable business case approach and politically.