Regina v Okafor: CACD 10 Nov 1993

The appellant, a Nigerian national, arrived at Gatwick Airport from Nigeria with a single item of luggage, namely a suit carrier. He was asked a number of questions, in particular whether he had packed the luggage himself and whether everything in it belonged to him, following which his luggage was searched. Packages of cocaine were discovered in his luggage but he was not arrested or informed of what had been found, the officer wishing him to be released in order to see whether he would lead customs officers to anybody else involved in the importation. He agreed to undergo a body search. Whilst this was in progress (and other officers being deployed by way of surveillance) he was asked various questions and gave various answers without being cautioned or advised of his entitlement to have legal advice before being interviewed. Objection was taken at trial to the admission in evidence of the conversation during the body search.
Held: Customs officers are subject to the PACE Code of Practice for Detention etc in the same as are the police, and must issue a formal caution before questioning a suspect. ‘We have come to the conclusion that the learned judge ought to have excluded this conversation. There were clear breaches of the rules and breaches which were of significance in the context of this case. Therefore we conclude, because it seems that this matter has been ventilated by Mr Issard-Davies with a view to future conduct by the Customs and Excise, that where a Customs Officer has reason to suspect that an offence has been committed, he must either avoid asking questions in relation to the offence, or he must follow the provisions of the Code and administer a caution. In the circumstances of the present case it would have been an option for the Customs Officer to talk about anything other than the case whilst conducting the search, and to have allowed the suspect to go into the concourse and then ask him questions only when he was ultimately arrested. In that way the object of trying to catch others who might be waiting to meet the suspect could have been pursued.’
Lord Taylor CJ
Gazette 24-Nov-1993, Ind Summary 22-Nov-1993, Times 10-Nov-1993, (1994) 99 Cr App Rep 97, [1994] 3 All ER 741
Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Code C s66
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedRegina v Sewa Singh Gill and Paramjit Singh Gill CACD 31-Jul-2003
The appellants sought to challenge their convictions for cheating the Inland Revenue. They were accused of having hidden assets and income from the revenue. The appellants objected to the use at trial of material obtained in a ‘Hansard’ interview. . .
CitedRegina v Dianne Senior and Samantha Senior CA 4-Mar-2004
The defendants appealed convictions for being involved in the illegal importation of cocaine, saying that questioning at the airport before a caution was administered was unlawful. By the time they were asked about the cases, the customs officers . .

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Updated: 08 April 2021; Ref: scu.87490