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Inspection report published: An inspection of Border Force insider threat (January – March 2023)

Commenting on the publication of the report, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Neal, said:

While the overwhelming majority of the staff engaged in securing the UK border perform their duties with honesty and integrity, the privileged access that Border Force officers have to critical assets such as data, property, and contraband creates a risk that an unscrupulous minority will abuse their position to commit criminal acts. The public rightly expects that Border Force will have effective measures in place to mitigate this risk and to ensure that any members of staff who do violate the trust placed in them are held to account.

This inspection found that where Border Force can make decisions and execute projects to combat the risk of insider threat, there have been positive results. However, its overall ability to implement further measures is hindered by its position within the Home Office and Civil Service. Leadership structures for addressing insider threat were found to be confused, with complex inter-relationships and unclear lines of accountability between numerous organisations and agencies. Border Force also suffers from limitations on its ability to access data that would allow it to identify and reduce risks. As a result, no one has the full picture of the insider threat risk across the organisation.

Policing is facing the damaging fallout of an organisational structure that is failing to properly account for its insider threat. As a law enforcement agency, Border Force needs to be equipped for success. On the evidence of this inspection, it does not appear to be as well-equipped as it could or ought to be, which risks wider reputational consequence.

This report has been extensively redacted prior to publication. Redactions are quite proper if publication of the material in question is undesirable for reasons of national security or might jeopardise an individual’s safety, and the UK Borders Act 2007 provides that the Home Secretary may omit material from ICIBI reports in those circumstances. However, the redactions in this report raise questions regarding oversight of the decision to omit material from published ICIBI reports. While I understand the inclination on the part of ministers and officials to resist the release of information that they see as potentially useful to criminality, this needs to be balanced against oversight and independent scrutiny.

In this report, I consider that some of the redactions fail to meet the high ‘reasons of national security’ threshold set out in the Borders Act. I am not clear how that assertion is now tested, but it is certainly an issue on which the Home Office should reflect. I have raised this issue regularly with officials since my appointment.

Sadly, the lack of regular access to the Immigration Minister means I have been unable to inform him of the concerns identified through this inspection. The delay in publishing my findings and the extensive redactions to this report mean that the impact of my independent assessment of risk to the border is nowhere near as powerful as it should be, and this should be a matter of legitimate concern. Greater powers to self-publish reports was a recommendation (subsequently not accepted) from the Windrush Lessons Learned Review.


This report was sent to the Home Secretary on 26 May 2023 and makes eight recommendations, one of which has been redacted. The Home Office has fully accepted six recommendations and partially accepted two. I am pleased to see that work is already under way to deliver on these recommendations and that the department has committed to specific timescales for implementation.

Link:, dated September 7, 2023 9:47 am

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