Well, the tale has been told by fellow #operationevacuate operative, Stephen Glenn, of what happened on our return from Bathgate to Belfast at the weekend.
My letter to the chief constable of Dumfries & Galloway, Patrick Shearer QPM has now been posted.
Today I was travelling from Bathgate, West Lothian to Bangor, County Down, via Stena Line from the Port of Stranraer to the Port of Belfast, when I was stopped by officers from your constabulary.
When stopped I was not informed by your officers, despite asking, under what legislation I was being stopped. It is my understanding that I have a legal right to be informed of this.
When stopped, I was asked for photographic ID. I produced my pass for the Northern Ireland Assembly which clearly has my name on it, and a photograph. I was then asked if I had some ‘proper ID’ like a driving licence or passport. Whilst I was tempted to say no… I produced my United Kingdom passport and handed it to the officer concerned.
At this point I was handed an ‘Embarkation Card’ which was green in colour and told that I had to fill it in. I started to do so, and in the middle of so doing, another officer came and asked me to open the bonnet. At no point had I been told that police wanted to search the vehicle until this point. Once again there was no information given as to what legislation was being used to search me or the vehicle.
Having completed the card, I got out of the vehicle, and went to the passenger side to hand it to the officer who gave it to me. She then checked my details against the passport that had been given previously.
The other officers present produced a police dog which then searched the vehicle – once again I would like to reiterate that neither I nor my passenger were informed of what legislation was being used by police despite repeated requests for this.
I asked what would be done with the information that was on the embarkation card, and was told that it would be ‘held on a local database’. I asked for how long, and was not given an answer to this.
Finally I was told that it was under the Terrorism Act that I was being stopped. But when I asked for clarification as to which Terrorism Act or indeed which section of which Act I was laughed at and told to just get back in and drive on.
Having given plenty of my personal information to your officers, I then asked the woman police officer if I could have her shoulder number as I couldn’t see it. She started to look for it, as it was in her pocket. As she did so, a male colleague stopped her and said that she shouldn’t give it out. When I questioned this, I was told that this was standard policy. I am amazed at this as my understanding is that police shoulder numbers are there so that police officers can be identified not just by their colleagues but by members of the public.
When I was growing up, in Northern Ireland at the height of the terrorism campaign by the Provisional Irish Republican Army, my friends and I were found great respect for the the ‘thin green line’ that was the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC. Throughout my life until the ceasefires declared by the Provisional IRA, my family travelled through the Port of Larne to the Port of Stranraer on our frequent trips to visit my grandparents who lived in London and then in Cornwall.
I am sorry to say that after today, and previous incidents in the Port of Stranraer when I have been travelling as a foot passenger I have very little respect for the actual officers of your constabulary despite my general respect for the office of constable.
Whilst your officers try to appear to be helpful they are, in my opinion, not treating citizens of and guests in the United Kingdom in the best manner possible. By stopping people under the Terrorism Act – which appears to be ‘Stop and Search’ which as you are no doubt aware has been declared unlawful by the European Court.
I would be grateful if you could confirm to me
- under what powers your officers stopped me and searched me and the vehicle under my control,
- what personal information you hold on me
- how long such personal information will be held on file
- what purpose such personal information is being held for
- and how it will be destroyed.
I look forward to receiving your response as quickly as possible.
Michael Carchrie Campbell
As I said in my letter to him, I look forward to his response, and of course will let you know in due course the outcome too.