Deadline approaches for my Freedom of Information request to the Home Office about the numbers of yachts in the UK being stopped
Still no reply to an email I sent in September to the Home Office requesting information about the number of stop and search raids made on yachts in the UK, and I can’t say I’m very hopeful of getting it.
Readers and the RYA have been concerned by boardings carried out by the UK Border Agency, which this summer took over responsibility for Customs and amalgamated it with immigration and border security.
To be fair, drugs smuggling on board yachts is greatly on the increase, and since April 2008, Customs have seized more that 15,000 tonnes of controlled drugs at sea.
But patrolling to monitor the movement of yachts that are not on cross-Channel or overseas voyages seems to have been added to the agenda, and that should be of concern. Taken together with the E-Borders proposal to gather electronic data on every yacht and crew going foreign, is this a precursor of much more intensive monitoring of yacht movements?
The signs are worrying. This summer, a number of yachtsmen coasting in the UK have been stopped and asked to produce crew IDs and official ships’ papers. This is paperwork we are not required to carry or even to possess.
It prompted the RYA to make a complaint to the government and to clarify whether these stop and search boardings are a trend and perhaps part of a new policy. But the RYA don’t know whether these searches are on the increase.
So in September I submitted a Freedom of Information request in September. I asked them to provide:
- The numbers of stop and searches of leisure craft within UK waters between 2006 and 2009, tabulated monthly or yearly.
- The number of occasions on which owners or skippers of these vessels were asked for, or presented, identification or documents.
Legally, the Home Office have a deadline of 20 working days to provide the information. Today is day 19, and not a squeak.
So the UK Border Agency is apparently not so quick to provide the paperwork to us when we ask. But it is our right to know and when we, or the RYA (who to date have also not had a reply from government) find out more, I’ll post it here.
You’ll notice that we have a new website design. However, despite the invitation to comment here, please note that while some important technicalities are ironed out at our end I will not be able moderate or post any comments for the time being. Sorry about that; I’ll update when it is sorted out.