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Factsheet: disruptive & investigatory powers transparency data

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The proportionate use of investigatory and disruptive powers is essential to tackle the threat we face from terrorism and serious crime.

Following the terrorist attacks last year, there has been a significant shift in the terrorist threat to the UK which has focused attention on investigations into, and the disruption of, terrorist activity.

Disruptive powers

The Government will seek to use the full range of capabilities where proportionate and necessary, to disrupt and manage the return of individuals who travelled to take part in the conflict in Syria and Iraq and now wish to come back to Britain.

We will also look to prosecute foreign fighters where there is evidence that crimes have been committed, and in addition reduce the number of individuals overseas of national security concern who can return.

The use of these powers set out in the report includes the below.

Stop and Search

  • Section 47A of the Terrorism Act (TACT) enables senior police officers to make an authorisation in a specific area where they reasonably suspect that an act of terrorism will take place. This allows uniformed police officers to stop and search any vehicle or person within that area.
  • This power was authorised for the first time following the Parsons Green attack on 15 September 2017 and there were a total of 128 stop and searches conducted, which resulted in four arrests.
  • Sections 43 and 43A of TACT give police officers further powers to stop and search a person or vehicle if they reasonably suspect that the person is a terrorist or that the vehicle is being used for terrorist purposes.
  • In the year ending 31 March 2018, 768 persons were stopped and searched by the Metropolitan Police Service under section 43 of TACT, which represents a 70% increase from the previous year’s total of 453. There were 64 resultant arrests.

Port and border controls

  • Schedule 7 of TACT allows police officers to stop and question, and when necessary, detain and search individuals travelling through ports, airports, international rail stations or the border area. This is used to determine whether an individual is, or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
  • In the year ending 31 March 2018, at total of 15,391 persons were examined under this power in the UK, a fall of 15% on the previous year. In the same period (year ending 31 March 2018), there were 1,776 resulting detentions following examinations.

Royal Prerogative

  • In relation to national security this power can be used to refuse to issue or to cancel a British passport on public interest grounds.
  • The Royal Prerogative was used to deny access to British passport facilities to: 14 individuals in 2017; 17 individuals in 2016; and 21 individuals in 2015.


  • The Home Secretary can exclude a non-European Economic Area (EEA) national if he considers that the person’s presence in the UK would not be conducive to the public good. The exclusion power arises under the Royal Prerogative.
  • EEA nationals and their families may be excluded from the UK on grounds of public policy or public security, if they are considered to pose a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to society.
  • Between 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016, the Government excluded 30 people from the UK, including 20 exclusions on national security grounds. There were 26 exclusions made between 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017 – all on national security grounds.

Deprivation of British citizenship

  • The British Nationality Act 1981 provides the Home Secretary with the power to deprive an individual of their British citizenship if satisfied that such action is ‘conducive to the public good’ or if the individual obtained their British citizenship fraudulently.
  • When seeking to deprive an individual of their British citizenship on the basis that it is ‘conducive to the public good’, the law requires that this action only proceeds if the individual would not be left stateless.
  • The Government considers that deprivation on ‘conducive’ grounds is an appropriate response to activities such as those involving: national security including espionage and acts of terrorism; unacceptable behaviour such as the ‘glorification’ of terrorism; war crimes; and serious and organised crime.
  • From 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016, 14 people were deprived of British citizenship on the basis that to do so was ‘conducive to the public good’. Between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2017, 104 people were deprived on ‘conducive’ grounds.

Temporary Exclusion Orders (TEOs)

  • The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act introduced TEOs which allow the Home Secretary to disrupt and control the return to the UK of a British citizen who has been involved in terrorism-related activity outside the UK. The power came into force in 2015.
  • A TEO makes it unlawful for the individual to return to the UK without engaging with the UK authorities and is implemented through cancelling their travel documents and adding them to watch lists. This ensures that when an individual does return, it is in a manner which the UK Government controls.
  • The number of TEOs served from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017 is nine.


  • Under TACT, the Home Secretary has the power to proscribe an organisation if he believes that the organisation: commits or participates in acts of terrorism; prepares for terrorism; promotes or encourages terrorism; or is otherwise concerned with terrorism.
  • This tool allows for the prosecution of individuals who are members or supporters of a proscribed terrorist organisation.
  • There are currently 74 terrorist groups proscribed under TACT and a further 14 organisations proscribed in Northern Ireland under previous legislation.

Investigatory powers

Current investigatory powers, including the interception of communications and the retention and acquisition of communications data are set out in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.

The Investigatory Powers Act transforms the law relating to the use and oversight of investigatory powers, strengthening safeguards and introducing world-leading oversight arrangements.

The use of these powers set out in the report includes the below.

Interception statistics

  • Interception is the power to obtain the content of a communication during its transmission which can provide crucial intelligence on the plans and actions of terrorists and serious criminals. This power is provided for under RIPA and the Investigatory Powers Act.
  • The total number of interception warrants authorised in 2016 was 3,007, compared with 3,057 in 2015. In 2016, 65% of warrants were issued for the purpose of the prevention and detection of serious crime; 33% were issued in the interest of national security; and 2% were issued in relation to a combination of statutory purposes.

Communications data statistics

  • Communications data is the ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘with whom’ of a communication, but not what was written or said. There were 754,559 items of communications data acquired by public authorities during 2016.
  • The majority of communications data requests made in 2016 were from the police and law enforcement agencies, comprising 93% of total communications data acquired. The security and intelligence agencies accounted for 6% and 1% was acquired by other public authorities.
  • The prevention and detection of crime or prevention of disorder was the statutory purpose which accounted for 83% of communications data acquired in 2016, with death or injury in an emergency situation accounting for 11% and national security 6%.

Covert techniques statistics

  • Covert surveillance techniques and the use of covert human intelligence sources are regulated by Part II of RIPA.
  • Intrusive surveillance takes place inside residential premises or private vehicles, whether by human or technical means whereas directed surveillance is conducted at any location (including online), to obtain private information about a person. From 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017, there were 237 authorisations for intrusive surveillance and law enforcement authorised the use of directed surveillance on 6,237 occasions.
  • A covert human intelligence source (CHIS) is a person (including undercover officers or members of the public acting as informants) who is asked by a public authority to start or maintain a relationship for a covert purpose. For year ending 31 March 2017, 2,310 CHIS were authorised by law enforcement agencies and at the end of the reporting period there remained 2,299 authorised by law enforcement.
  • Property interference may be authorised for law enforcement agencies under Part III of the Police Act 1997 and allows them to enter or interfere with property, or wireless telegraphy, for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime. Similar powers are available to the security and intelligence services under section 5 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994. For the year ending 31 March 2017 there were 1,842 property interference authorisations.

The disruptive and investigatory powers transparency report 2018 can be found here.

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