The Home Office has issued new guidance to immigration enforcement officers, called simply Obstruction. This refers to the criminal offence of obstructing an immigration officer in section 26(1)(g) of the Immigration Act 1971, which can see activists prosecuted for interfering with raids.
A crucial element of that offence, however, is that the officer be “acting in the execution of this Act” at the time they are obstructed. The guidance emphasises this several times.
For example, the power to arrest someone for obstruction is confined to situations of “obstruction whilst acting in execution of the Act”. If they do arrest someone,
It is essential that officers’ records are accurate and clearly detail how they were in execution of the 1971 Act. Failure to do so could lead to the arrest being deemed unlawful and a court dismissing the case.
By contrast, officers are advised that if they are obstructed “while not exercising any powers within the 1971 Act”, they should instead “consider the necessity to continue their deployment”.
Likewise, the section on use of reasonable force in response to obstruction says:
section 146(1) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 allows Immigration officers to use reasonable force where necessary when the Immigration officer is simultaneously exercising any power conferred on him by the “Immigration Acts” [emphasis original].
Prosecutions are rare: just ten in England and Wales since 2013, along with a similar number of prosecutions for assaulting an immigration officer under section 22 of the UK Borders Act 2007.