Letter; Hunting down the drug smugglers

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From Mr D N Chesters

Sir: While some of Anthony Clavane's article "How to spot a drug smuggler" (Section Two, 22 February) gives a very positive message about the work of customs officers in the fight against drugs, it is also open to misinterpretation.

First, today we do not stop passengers at random; we work on intelligence, intuitive and structured risk assessments. Second, female officers do not ask male passengers to take off their clothes; searching of suspected passengers is a very formal procedure under the control of a senior officer.

Officers do have a difficult job when it comes to passengers who have stuffed drugs into body orifices or swallowed them; control of these people under the procedures laid down in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act is neither the easiest or nicest of jobs,

Officers get a tremendous amount of satisfaction when they stop drugs coming into the country. We have a committed and professional staff who are in the forefront of protecting society.

Yours faithfully,

D N Chesters

Head of External Affairs

HM Customs and Excise

London, SE1