Border Force Officers can exercise either immigration or customs powers depending on their appointment as an Immigration Officer or a Designated Customs Official.
When exercising immigration powers, a Border Force Officer may only search a person until it is satisfactorily established that the person is a British Citizen, may enter the United Kingdom without leave or has leave to enter the United Kingdom. The Immigration Officer may search for any documents relevant to their examination of the individual. It is possible that such documents could be contained on a mobile phone. Failure to submit to a search may result in the person being refused leave to enter, or could constitute an offence under section 26(1)(b) of the Immigration Act 1971, and / or could lead to the mobile phone being seized under paragraph 15A(7) of Schedule 2 to that Act.
The Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 permits Border Force customs officers to question passengers regarding their baggage and anything carried with them, and to produce baggage for examination to ensure the payment of duties, to prevent the importation of prohibited items, or to search persons where there are reasonable grounds to suspect they are carrying prohibited or restricted goods or goods on which duty has not been paid. As part of this examination, they may request access to electronic equipment.
Section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 empowers Border Force immigration and customs officers in England and Wales to arrest persons who are committing an offence or who they have reasonable grounds to suspect are about to commit an offence. Section 32 permits them to search persons who have been arrested. Section 19 empowers officers to seize items that are evidence in relation to an offence.
Under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 a person must give an examining officer any information that the officer requests to establish whether the person is concerned in terrorist related activity. If a person fails to comply they can be prosecuted for wilful obstruction. While it is possible for designated Border Force Officers to be accredited to exercise Schedule 7 powers, in practice it is exercised at port by Police Officers.
We do not hold information on how many times this has occurred in the past 12 months.