Yachtsmen and the general public are being urged to help Customs catch drug smugglers through our stand at the London Boat Show.

Yachtsmen sailing around the UK coastline are in an ideal position to identify and report any suspicious behaviour by other vessels which may be involved in smuggling activities. This information can be phoned through to Customs control centres throughout the country on freephone 0800 59 5000 – the number of the CUSTOMS CONFIDENTIAL hotline successfully launched last July.

Since July 1999, the CUSTOMS CONFIDENTIAL hotline has received about 14,000 calls, providing Customs with vital information in relation to the smuggling of drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo said:
“Most of us know and fear the impact illegal drugs have on our communities – the increase in burglaries, violence and other crime. It is essential we don’t feel helpless to act against the criminals who are destroying our communities – if you have any information that may help Customs in their fight against drugs then please ring them on their 24 hour confidential free phone – 0800 59 5000 – all calls are treated in absolute confidence. No piece of information is too small – let them judge the importance of what you know or suspect.”

Visiting the stand the Government’s Anti-Drug Co-ordinator Keith Hellawell said:
“Today I begin my third year of co-ordinating the Government’s anti-drug policies of law enforcement, education and rehabilitation. In that time we have made tremendous progress, both internationally and nationally, in ensuring all the agencies and departments involved are working together in a co-ordinated way and that the money we spend is having the best possible impact.
“Within Europe the UK is seen as leading the anti drugs field mainly because our drugs strategy, ‘Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain’ promotes a clear focus and value for money.
“However Government cannot solve this problem alone – it is vital we all work together to ensure the drug dealers and smugglers are caught and punished, that addicts are rehabilitated and that youngsters are persuaded it is not worth the risk of experimenting in the first place. I also would urge any of you with any information to ring 0800 59 5000 – we need your help.”


What to look out for:
Yachts, rigid inflatable boats and other pleasure craft in remote areas.
Packages being loaded or unloaded in unusual areas, remote beaches, at sea or at odd times.
Ships signalling ashore or being met by smaller craft.
Vessels or aircraft operating at night without lights.
Vehicles or vessels specifically adapted to conceal goods, or requests for such adaptations.
Aircraft touching down or landing in fields or improvised airstrips, and other unusual circumstances.
Packages being dropped from aircraft.
Strangers asking questions about remote beaches or landing sites.
Aircraft flying low repeatedly over potential landing or dropping spots.
Fellow passengers acting nervously or suspiciously.

Note down where possible vehicle registration numbers, date, time, place, descriptions of people, vehicles, vessels and aircraft.
Report the facts to the local Customs office or the freephone – 0800 59 5000 – a 24 hour confidential line.
Do not attempt to involve yourself – these can be dangerous criminals.
Do not touch any suspect packages – drugs are dangerous and you may destroy evidence.
Do not think any piece of information is too trivial – it could be vital.


It is important to reduce drug use – one reason is that drug users are involved in other crimes. The National Treatment Outcome Research Study (monitoring 1,075 clients going through treatment) showed this group had committed 70,000 offences in the three months prior to treatment – the most common problem being long term heroin dependence.

In six pilot schemes around the country where urine samples were obtained from arrested people up to 20% tested positive for heroin, almost half of shoplifters tested positive for opiates and the amount of illegal income earned by heroin or crack users ranged from #10,000 to 20,000 pounds a year, compared to #4,000 a year for other people who had been arrested.

In the current financial year to date (1 April to 10 December 1999) Customs and Excise seized 574 kilograms of heroin and 1090 kilograms of cocaine.

Customs has forged strong links over the years with the Royal Yatching Association and the British Marine Industries Federation, to encourage the exchange of information to reduce smuggling and the flow of drugs into Britain.

Spokespeople and media facilities will be available at the London International Boat Show at Earl’s Court on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 January 2000.

Please visit our Stand (7C) and see the special feature on smuggling in the Official Boat Show Programme.

HM Customs & Excise Press Office, New King’s Beam House, 22 Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PJ.

This news release and other information about HM Customs & Excise can be found at our website:

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