The home secretary today backed down from a controversial bid to reverse an October 2013 High Court ruling that terror suspects detained at ports and airports should, like other detainees, be entitled to the ‘fundamental protection’ of face-to-face advice from a solicitor.
Theresa May and the Metropolitan Police were seeking an expedited appeal against the ruling. The hearing was set down in the Court of Appeal for today and tomorrow (20-21 February 2014), but both appellants withdrew shortly before it began.
The Law Society intervened in support of a claim - brought in the High Court by Birmingham firm Public Law Solicitors in October 2013 - that it is unlawful to restrict terror suspects detained in transit to legal advice from a solicitor via telephone only.
Such detainees, when they have asked for legal advice, should have the same right as others to a solicitor present in person, the High Court ruled.
Law Society president Nicholas Fluck (pictured) said: ‘The government’s new position is a recognition that the right to consult with a solicitor is a fundamental protection for people, including those travelling through ports and airports, when questioned by the state.
‘In addition to withdrawing its appeal, the government has changed the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill to reflect the High Court’s judgment.’
This wide-ranging bill seeks to address anti-social behaviour, crime and disorder, including firearms offences, forced marriages and the control of dangerous dogs.
The High Court ruled in October 2013 that a person detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is entitled to consult a solicitor in person at any time.
Schedule 7 allows the police to stop and detain anyone at a port or airport, without any grounds for suspicion, and question them about their possible involvement in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. The High Court’s decision clarified previous uncertainty about the scope of the right to legal advice in schedule 7.