UK: Court set for ruling on Irish human rights challenge to anti-terror laws

Next week, judges will decide if the United Kingdom’s use of anti-terror laws breached the human rights of three Irish nationals arrested and detained on suspicion of murder.

A ruling in the case Magee and Others v. the United Kingdom (nos. 26289/12, 29062/12, and 29891/12) is scheduled to be announced on 12 May.

The applicants, Gabriel Magee, Colin Francis Duffy, and Teresa Magee, were born in 1972, 1967, and 1978 respectively and live in Belfast, Lurgan, and Craigavon (Northern Ireland, UK) respectively. Their cases concern their arrest and detention under the United Kingdom’s anti-terrorism legislation.

Both Magees were arrested in 2009 on suspicion of involvement in the murder of a police officer. Duffy was arrested on the same day on suspicion of involvement in the murder of two soldiers.

Pursuant to the United Kingdom’s Terrorism Act (2000) the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) successfully applied on two occasions to the County Court for warrants to extend their detention beyond the normal limit of 48 hours.

The DPP sought the extra time for forensic tests and to carry out further questioning once the results of the additional forensic tests had been received.

In the meantime the applicants had sought a judicial review of the judge’s first decision to extend their detention beyond 48 hours.

The High Court found that the first review of detention following arrest should include some degree of review of the lawfulness of the arrest. As the County Court judge had not considered the lawfulness of the applicants’ arrest, the High Court quashed her decision to extend their detention.

All three applicants were released the same day, after 12 days in detention. During the judicial review they had also complained that Schedule 8 of the UK’s Terrorism Act, which sets out the terms for detention, was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights’ Article 5 § 3 (entitlement to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial).

This complaint was rejected in 2011 and they were refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

No charges were brought against both Magees. Duffy was subsequently charged with the murder of the two soldiers as well as five attempted murders. He was acquitted on all counts in 2012.

Relying on Article 5 §§ 1 (c), 2, and 3 (right to liberty and security / right to be informed of the reasons for arrest / entitlement to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial) both Magees and Duffy complain that their detention under the UK’s Terrorism Act was incompatible with the rules governing lawful arrest and detention under the European Convention on Human Rights.

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