Oi, HMRC – hands off our possessions!

We think it's bloody cheek for officials to rifle through our suitcases, but the invasions into our privacy don't stop there

Share
Related Topics

It’s come to light that Customs officers regularly, and illegally, search through passengers’ luggage without their knowledge. Sometimes the searches – usually made in the arrivals hall – produce results: last year, Borders and Immigration made 1,000 seizures of contraband cigarettes and alcohol. But for every fruitful search, many fruitless ones were made, and we’ll never know why they were carried out because no records were kept.

Nobody can say if a search was carried out in a “lawful, proportionate and controlled way”. Customs officers can, in theory, do what they damn well like with your stuff; they could open Louis Vuitton luggage just because they fancy a rummage through the Myla smalls of its fruity owner.

But do we seriously mind? Do we just accept that heightened surveillance is a necessity in a dangerous world, and that the price of safety is to allow the authorities a free hand with our possessions?

Well no, actually, we don’t accept it. We think it’s a bloody cheek for officials to rifle through our suitcases when they feel like it. It may be a marvellous thing for the Customs people to find illegal contraband (I assume the explosives and bomb-making equipment would have been spotted at the X-ray stage) but let’s not be too supine about the assumed right of our guardians to fiddle unchecked with our belongings.

We are so inured to having our privacy invaded – by cameras, cyber-marketing, the data banks that know our every move on public transport – that we don’t seem to know how to respond when faced with ever-more-personal invasions. This month, the Lib Dem conference will debate a document which threatens to extend the “mansion tax” to cover a family’s possessions: jewellery, pictures, heirloom furniture, grandad’s wine cellar, grandma’s piano. They won’t be taxing the sale of these things; they’ll be taxing the fact that you own them. HMRC inspectors will be granted new powers to walk in and rootle through your possessions in order to evaluate them. And you risk being fined if you tell them to eff off.

A few years ago, posh restaurants started asking for my credit card details when taking a booking. They said they needed to be able to extract money from my account if I and my guests didn’t show up. The first time this happened, I did what they asked – I could see the logic of their case – but felt angry with myself for allowing it to happen. I felt invaded. I felt like I did the day in Havana when a bare-faced pickpocket put his hand in my trouser pocket to reach the wristwatch he knew would be hidden in there.

If we’re not careful, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will soon be rummaging in our possessions, unstoppably, just as they’ve been doing, unchecked, in our suitcases. How long are we going to simply let them do it, content to think that, in both cases, it’s probably for the best?   

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Seven per cent of young men have recently stopped using deodorant  

‘Sweaty-gate’ leaves a bad smell for PRs and journalists

Danny Rogers
Alison Parker and Adam Ward: best remembered before tragedy  

The only way is ethics: Graphic portraits of TV killings would upset many, not just our readers in the US

Will Gore
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border