Man searched at airport on suspicion of paedophilia ‘because he had a camera and a boyfriend’

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A gay man was stopped at Gatwick airport last year by a Border Force officer who suspected he was ‘involved in paedophilia’ because he had a camera and a boyfriend, a report into controls at the airport has revealed.

The incident was recorded during observations of staff behaviour as part of an inspection at Gatwick airport’s north terminal by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s office, and highlighted by journalist David Hencke.

The report said some officers had “poor understanding of appropriate selection indicators and risk profiles in determining which passengers to challenge and in some cases were making judgements based on stereotypes.”

At the incident in question, inspectors observed a Border Force officer stopping a gay man who was travelling with his partner and whom the officer thought “might be involved in paedophilia”.

The report outlined the details: “The passenger was stopped and asked routine questions about their trip. When the officer indicated they wished to search the baggage, the passenger requested that this be done in a more private place. This request and a further request on this issue were refused. The contents of the passenger’s bag were then openly displayed including photographic equipment.

“The officer subsequently left the passenger to undertake background checks and later emerged signalling that the passenger could continue on their way.

“The officer then commented to another officer that the passenger was HIV positive; the colleague then advised that the searching officer should use stronger hand gel. These comments were made within earshot of the passenger and indeed other passengers in the channel.

“When subsequently asked why this passenger had been stopped immediately after this interaction, the officer commented that the passenger ‘looked like he might be involved in paedophilia’ and then went on to say that ‘the presence of the camera and the fact he had a boyfriend confirmed this’ (no photos were examined).

“Notebook records of this exchange were not kept although the passenger was delayed by almost 30 minutes.”

The report said the selection of the passenger was “inappropriate” and the behaviour of staff “unprofessional”, as part of a larger critique of practices at Gatwick airport last year which found that of 108 recorded searches, 71 percent were not justified.

John Vine, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, said he was “very concerned to learn of discriminatory practice in the conduct of detection activity. The extent of any discriminatory practices should be investigated and action taken to ensure officers understand and comply with the Agency’s duties under the Equality Act 2010.”

A Border Force spokesman told “We are disappointed that the inspector will not share details of the individual cases so that the Border Force can investigate the incident and take further action as necessary.

“We have already addressed the Chief Inspector’s recommendations by introducing additional training for staff on issues of discrimination, we take discriminatory practice very seriously and have procedures in place to deal with any complaints.”

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