Detention without charge unlawful

Thursday 16 December 2004

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Lord Bingham set out the issue to be decided:

"3. The appellants share certain common characteristics which are central to their appeals. All are foreign (non-UK) nationals. None has been the subject of any criminal charge. In none of their cases is a criminal trial in prospect. All challenge the lawfulness of their detention. More specifically, they all contend that such detention was inconsistent with obligations binding on the United Kingdom under the European Convention on Human Rights, given domestic effect by the Human Rights Act 1998; that the United Kingdom was not legally entitled to derogate from those obligations; that, if it was, its derogation was nonetheless inconsistent with the European Convention and so ineffectual to justify the detention; and that the statutory provisions under which they have been detained are incompatible with the Convention. The duty of the House, and the only duty of the House in its judicial capacity, is to decide whether the appellants' legal challenge is soundly based."

Key extracts from Lord Hoffman's landmark speech have been set out below:

"96. This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation. Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of their nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it. Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community."

"97. ... I said that the power of detention is at present confined to foreigners and I would not like to give the impression that all that was necessary was to extend the power to United Kingdom citizens as well. In my opinion, such a power in any form is not compatible with our constitution. The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory."[our emphasis]

You can download a pdf copy of the full speeches here

Judgment

ruling.pdf 382.39 kB

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