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West Yorkshire Police consultation: Home Office trial extending Immigration Officer powers to Police Officers & Special Constables

via Beverley Adams, WY Police

West Yorkshire Police’s Force Performance Improvement Team would like your views on a trial that West Yorkshire Police will be participating in alongside Kent on behalf of the Home Office.

Under the Immigration Act 2016, a power of search exists that enables Immigration Officers to search individuals who are non EEA illegal migrants (the EEA includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK) for UK driving licenses. A part of this trial, Police Officers (including Special Constables) from both forces will be given the same powers as Immigration Officers.

Why is this trial happening?

The UK government has a policy that illegal migrants should be not permitted to drive on UK roads and they view driving as a privilege that should be enjoyed by those individuals who reside within the UK lawfully. A driving licence is also one of the most commonly accepted forms of identification which can help individuals gain employment, rent property and gain access to services within the UK.

For example, over the last three years, the Home Office and DVLA have revoked around 27,000 driving licences from illegal migrants and made requirements on the individuals to surrender them to the DVLA, however, in many instances, the licences are not returned. This poses a significant risk to not only the individual concerned, but other road users as licence revocation results in the individual no longer being legally entitled to drive on UK roads and makes any insurance policy void. The impact of uninsured drivers is already well publicised and continues to be a problem nationally, hence the government is keen to ensure revoked licences are returned to the DVLA.

The overall purpose of the pilot is to test the effectiveness of the legislation and to gain public feedback to support the decision making process a decision is made whether to roll the powers to other forces within the country.  

What is included within the trial?

The legislation provides officers with a power to search for UK issued driving licences, where the officer has reasonable grounds to believe:

  1. That the individual is an illegal migrant (gained by initial findings and/or subsequent confirmation via telephone with immigration service)
  2. They are in possession of a UK driving licence (in their own or another’s name)
  3. That the licence may be concealed on their person.

The legislation also enables officers to search vehicles as well as property, however, we expect a search would not normally extend beyond the initial premises/vehicle in which the person was encountered – for example, if the person is stopped driving a car, it would be unreasonable to then search the individuals house.

Any searches will be conducted with the same degree of respect and professionalism as with any other search power, we will also record each search whether there is a positive outcome (licence found)

Police officers will be expected to make contact with the Immigration services at the point of this interaction to confirm the individuals immigration status, this will allow us to make informed decisions around the use of the power, but also whether any additional actions (such as detention or referral to the immigration enforcement teams) need to be taken.

What will the Police record?

The Police will record all instances when this search power has been used, including details such as the individuals, name, age, gender and self-defined ethnicity in the same way we record searches under existing stop and search practices. This will allow us and the Home Office to closely monitor the use of the power and to identify any learning opportunities.

What would we like from you?

Your opinion on this trial is important. As a member of one of the communities that West Yorkshire Police serves, your feedback will help us and the Home Office understand the communities reaction to the use of these trial powers and whether there is an appetite for a nationwide roll out.

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