Initimate Searches

Part of Orders of the Day — Police and Criminal Evidence Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 25th October 1984.

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Mr. Shaw:

The statistical evidence is of drug abuse, drug carrying and drug trafficking. We are discussing whether the use of an intimate search power would be an effective way to deal with one aspect of criminal activity. I cannot give any statistics about intimate search recovery, because the power has not previously been available.

In this group of amendments there are amendments that permit Customs and Excise to apply to itself the power of protective intimate search contained in clause 55. That is a desirable safeguard that should clearly be available to Customs officers. However, Customs and Excise does have investigate search powers that derive from section 164 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979. That permits both intimate and non-intimate searches. In keeping with Customs' role in controlling the movement of goods in and out of the country, its search provision is not limited to class A drugs. Unlike the power now proposed for the police, the Customs provision permits searches only of persons within ports or airports, or entering or leaving the United Kingdom, and is therefore exercisable only at those places. In short, section 164 of the Customs and Excise Management Act is shaped expressly to enable it to fulfil its particular functions.

Were Customs to adopt clause 53 in full, the investigative power provided for the police would call its own power into question. The first amendment to clause 107, therefore, limits its adoption of the clause to the protective power and search. Its present power of investigative search is maintained intact by the second amendment, in accordance with undertakings given here and in another place.