A person detained for examination under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is entitled to consult a solicitor in person at any time, the High Court ruled today.

The decision, in Elosta v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and the Law Society and Secretary of State for the Home Department [2013: EWHC 3397] clarifies the scope of schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act and follows a Law Society intervention in a judicial review against the Metropolitan Police.   

The Society argued that it is unlawful to restrict a person who has been detained at a port or airport under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act to being entitled to have legal advice only via telephone.    

In his judgment Mr Justice Bean said: ‘The detainee has the choice. The right may be exercised at any time during the period of detention and may be exercised repeatedly, although not in a manner which frustrates the proper purpose of the examination. If the solicitor attends in person he may be present during the interview… .’

Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said: ‘This case focuses on the right to consult a solicitor in a situation where individuals are extremely vulnerable. It raises an important issue not only to the legal profession but also to the public generally.’  

He said that the Law Society intervened to establish that there is no doubt that detainees have a right to consult their solicitor in person once detained, and to emphasise the useful role solicitors play in advising detainees. 

‘The presence of solicitors provides a fundamental safeguard to detainees and this ruling has clarified that in principle there is no sound reason why questioning of a detainee should not be delayed pending the arrival of a solicitor who can advise on what questions they are obliged to answer and explain the legal implications of refusing to do so.’