Airport drug seizures information withheld

Customs bosses have refused to release information on drug seizures at Norwich Airport because they say it could threaten security at airports across the country and be used by smugglers to work out whether it is an easy target.

Using the Freedom of Information Act the Norwich Evening News requested details from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on the seizure of illegal drugs and other goods during the past two-and-a-half years.

The information was requested in order to determine whether the publicly-funded customs officers are doing their jobs effectively and successfully stopping illegal substances from reaching our shores and potentially ending up on the streets of Norwich.

However, the request was thrown out because Government officials say that releasing the details could threaten security, not just at Norwich Airport, but elsewhere in the country.

Les Smith, from HMRC, said: “In attempting to smuggle, for example drugs, firearms and excise goods into the UK, criminals are known to research carefully UK law enforcement capabilities and border controls. I believe that there is a considerable danger in releasing seizure information for specific locations because of the potential for it to undermine our effectiveness. If I were to release the data, I would be obliged to release similar data in response to requests for ports/airports across the country. This would enable those intent on smuggling to make comparisons of seizure figures across a number of areas. It would therefore undermine the department's efforts to prevent and detect smuggling and apprehension and prosecution of those who set out to evade the controls.”

HMRC's latest national figures show that during 2004/05 it seized 1,613kgs of heroin, 8,606kgs of cocaine, 740kgs of ecstasy and 57,504kgs of cannabis.

Airport drugs seizures stay secret (Norwich Evening News, 28 August 2006)