Protection of Freedoms Bill Published. Magna Carta Unfazed. – Dr Cian Murphy

14 February 2011 by

It’s no Magna Carta. Those of us who teach public law in British universities will certainly  have to grapple with the Protection of Freedoms Bill. But will it, like the that earlier constitutional text, echo through the centuries into the classrooms of 2311? I doubt it.

Although the Bill’s 107 sections will give Messrs Cameron and Clegg a long list of reforms to rattle off at party conferences it does little to coherently explain the coalition’s view of the appropriate relationship between the state and the citizen. The Government does not know what freedom is, but it knows freedom isn’t having your car immobilised without lawful authority (see section 54). In many respects, the Protection of Freedoms Bill seems to fit exactly with the coalition government’s attitude towards ‘freedom’, ‘liberty’ or – perish the thought – ‘human rights’. It is broadly libertarian but with no real coherent vision for fundamental rights. As a result the Protection of Freedoms Bill is a list of legislative pet hates, many introduced by New Labour, that the coalition wants to do away with.

The changes to counter-terrorism powers in Part 4 may well indicate the character of the Bill as a whole. Section 57 reduces the maximum period of pre-charge detention for terrorist offences from 28 days to 14. This is certainly a welcome move. The Terrorism Act 2000 originally provided for a 7 day detention period, which was increased to 14 days in 2003 and 28 days in 2006. The act that provided for the latter increase, the Terrorism Act 2006, marked the high-point of the Blair government’s counter-terrorism excesses. The 2005 Bill had originally provided for an astounding 90 day period. So the reversion to 14 days is an improvement, but only against the backdrop of post-September 11 over-reaching. (And the Government today also announced, lest we forget, their backup plan).

Section 58 provides for the repeal of sections 44 to 47 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Good riddance. Section 44 was a wholly illiberal provision which allowed police officers to stop and search individuals in designated areas without having to show reasonable suspicion. The subsequent sections elaborated on that power. The Government has been committed to repealing the section since last Summer – but only after the European Court of Human Rights held that it was a violation of the ECHR. Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of that in the Explanatory Notes, though there is a detailed analysis of the Bill’s Convention-compatibility available direct from the Home Office. Nonetheless, police powers abhor a vacuum, and as signalled in December, the section 44 power is replaced with new stop and search powers provided for by sections 59 to 62. The proposed new powers, at first glance, may be an improvement on section 44. But they have already been criticised and will require more considered scrutiny over the coming  months – especially in light of possible amendments as the Bill moves through Parliament.

Welcome though they may be, these changes do nothing to answer the more difficult questions about the appropriate role of state intervention in the face of violent politics. The vague offence of encouraging terrorism still blots the statute books whilecontrol orders continue in a new guise. New Labour’s flawed approach to the state-citizen relationship was to adopt theHuman Rights Act at the start of their term and spend the remainder of it chipping away at the constitutional foundation provided by the Act. Today, there is, once more, a move on to end Britain’s involvement in the ECHR once and for all. If the Government jumps on that bandwagon they will owe the constitution a replacement and this Bill is certainly not it. It is piecemeal reform of selective aspects of several years worth of intrusive legislation. Progressive reform should always be welcomed but let’s hold the fanfare. It’s no Magna Carta.

Dr Cian Murphy is Lecturer in Law at King’s College London. This post first appeared on the Human Rights in Ireland Blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks.

Sign up to free human rights updates by email, Facebook, Twitter or RSS

Read more


  1. Cian Murphy says:


    I agree – it is precisely this philosophical point that the government has failed to address. It does not have a coherent vision of the relationship of the state and the individual and the Human Rights Act – for all of its problems – does offer that.


  2. Diogenese says:

    Will Watson has hit the nail on the head; there must be an emphasis on the philosopy of human rights. This presumption of guilt that has crept in is dangerous and damaging.

    We do have the Magna Carta, it’s still valid and lawful and underpins many rights that are now being denied to us through Acts and legislation that seeks only to remove those rights.

    If we all acted “lawfully” we would be in Lawful Rebellion against the government right now which would, no doubt, prompt martial law and all sorts of draconian reactions from Parliament in order to protect their position which, according to Common Law is treasonous.

    The Protection of Freedoms Bill seeks to address certain items of legislation introduced by Labour – it does not deal with the fundamental philosophy of human rights.

  3. Cian Murphy says:


    Thanks for the comments. Stephen, it is true that there is now much financial surveillance in place, but we must bear in mind that that goes beyond the UK to EU and even UN level. See the Third Anti-Money Laundering Directive at EU level and the relevant parts of UN Security Council resolution 1373 and the related action by the Financial Action Task Force.


  4. Will Watson says:

    Good article, the Bill isn’t bad, nor is it necessarily good. It reads more like a list of common sense things and yes, ‘pet hates’ of the Coalition, rather than a document that revives the human rights and civil liberties denied to us by the former government.
    I would like to see it have more of an emphasis on the philosophy of human rights and liberalism. It seems odd that it does not, considering that the two parties proposing it consider themselves liberatarian and this is the natural territory of human rights!

  5. Stephen says:

    I wonder whether it does away with the disproportionate measures contained in the so called “Money Laundering” legislation which requires citizens to prove their identity and nationality in just about every transaction they enter into (save for shopping).

    Lawyers will know that these provisions require them to ascertin their clients’ identitiy and motives each time there is a transaction. Moreover, lawyers are obliged to report their client to the authorities if there is suspicion. How Orwellian is that?

    The Big Society? More like the Snitch Society.

    Sorry to rant. Just find these things outrageous.

  6. ObiterJ says:

    Quite agree. I think the bill’s title is more of a political slogan than a title which attempts to reflect accurately the bill’s content. Once authority gets power it only rarely gives it up. Thus we get makeovers but not proper reform. As ever, the devil is in the detail.

  7. Cian Murphy says:


    That may be true. But the US responded to their “pet hates” by entrenching a ten-article Bill of Rights that set out, in succinct terms, the rights of the citizens of that state.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Compare that to any of the clauses in this Bill. Of course, it’s a little unfair – one is constitutional and the other legislative. But that’s precisely the point. The US Constitution has a bedrock of rights protection – one that is contentious and contested but there nonetheless. The coalition, despite assaulting the ECHR & Human Rights Act, has not offered an equivalent, merely a list of legislative provisions they seek to repeal.

    Thanks for the thought,


  8. dw says:

    [T]he Protection of Freedoms Bill is a list of legislative pet hates, many introduced by New Labour, that the coalition wants to do away with.

    The US Bill of Rights could also be described as a list of pet hates, introduced by the British, that the Americans wanted to do away with.

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the UKHRB

This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.




7/7 Bombings 9/11 A1P1 Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology birds directive blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity circumcision citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Cologne Commission on a Bill of Rights common buzzard common law communications competition confidentiality confiscation order conscientious objection consent conservation constitution contact order contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs costs budgets Court of Protection crime criminal law Criminal Legal Aid criminal records Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty declaration of incompatibility defamation DEFRA Democracy village deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention devolution Dignitas dignity Dignity in Dying diplomacy director of public prosecutions disability Disability-related harassment disciplinary hearing disclosure Discrimination Discrimination law disease divorce DNA doctors does it matter? domestic violence Dominic Grieve don't ask don't ask don't tell don't tell Doogan and Wood double conviction DPP guidelines drones duty of care ECHR economic and social rights economic loss ECtHR Education election Employment Environment environmental information Equality Act Equality Act 2010 ethics Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice european disability forum European Sanctions Blog Eurozone euthanasia evidence Exclusion extra-jurisdictional reach of ECHR extra-territoriality extradition extradition act extradition procedures extradition review extraordinary rendition Facebook Facebook contempt facial recognition fair procedures Fair Trial faith courts fake news Family family courts family law family legal aid Family life fatal accidents act Fertility fertility treatment FGM fisheries fishing rights foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Association Freedom of Expression freedom of information Freedom of Information Act 2000 freedom of movement freedom of speech free speech game birds gangbo gang injunctions Garry Mann gary dobson Gary McFarlane gay discrimination Gay marriage gay rights gay soldiers Gaza Gaza conflict Gender General Dental Council General Election General Medical Council genetic discrimination genetic engineering genetic information genetics genetic testing Google government Grenfell grooming Gun Control gwyneth paltrow gypsies habitats habitats protection Halsbury's Law Exchange hammerton v uk happy new year harassment Hardeep Singh Haringey Council Harkins and Edwards Health healthcare health insurance Heathrow heist heightened scrutiny Henry VII Henry VIII herd immunity hereditary disorder High Court of Justiciary Hirst v UK HIV HJ Iran HM (Iraq) v The Secretary of state for the home department [2010] EWCA Civ 1322 Holder holkham beach holocaust homelessness Home Office Home Office v Tariq homeopathy hooding Hounslow v Powell House of Commons Housing housing benefits Howard League for Penal Reform how judges decide cases hra damages claim Hrant Dink HRLA HS2 hs2 challenge hts Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority human genome human rights Human Rights Act Human Rights Act 1998 human rights advocacy Human rights and the UK constitution human rights commission human rights conventions human rights damages Human Rights Day human rights decisions Human Rights Information Project human rights news Human Rights Watch human right to education human trafficking hunting Huntington's Disease HXA hyper injunctions Igor Sutyagin illegality defence immigration Immigration/Extradition Immigration Act 2014 immigration appeals immigration detention immigration judge immigration rules immunity increase of sanction India Indonesia Infrastructure Planning Committee inherent jurisdiction inherited disease Inhuman and degrading treatment injunction Inquest Inquests insult insurance insurmountable obstacles intelligence services act intercept evidence interception interests of the child interim remedies international international conflict international criminal court international humanitarian law international human rights international human rights law international law international treaty obligations internet internet service providers internment internship inuit investigation investigative duty in vitro fertilisation Iran iranian bank sanctions Iranian nuclear program Iraq Iraqi asylum seeker Iraq War Ireland irrationality islam Israel Italy iTunes IVF ivory ban jackson reforms Janowiec and Others v Russia ( Japan Jason Smith Jeet Singh Jefferies Jeremy Corbyn jeremy hunt job Jogee John Hemming John Terry joint enterprise joint tenancy Jon Guant Joseph v Spiller journalism judaism judges Judges and Juries judging Judicial activism judicial brevity judicial deference judicial review Judicial Review reform judiciary Julian Assange jurisdiction jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Act Justice and Security Bill Justice and Security Green Paper Justice Human Rights Awards JUSTICE Human Rights Awards 2010 just satisfaction Katyn Massacre Kay v Lambeth Kay v UK Ken Clarke Ken Pease Kerry McCarthy Kettling Kings College Klimas koran burning Labour Lady Hale lansley NHS reforms LASPO Law Commission Law Pod UK Law Society Law Society of Scotland leave to enter leave to remain legal aid legal aid cuts Legal Aid desert Legal Aid Reforms legal blogs Legal Certainty legal naughty step Legal Ombudsman legal representation legitimate expectation let as a dwelling Leveson Inquiry Levi Bellfield lewisham hospital closure lgbtq liability Libel libel reform Liberal Democrat Conference Liberty libraries closure library closures Libya licence conditions licence to shoot life insurance life sentence life support limestone pavements limitation lisbon treaty Lithuania Litigation litvinenko live exports local authorities locked in syndrome london borough of merton London Legal Walk London Probation Trust Lord Bingham Lord Bingham of Cornhill Lord Blair Lord Goldsmith lord irvine Lord Judge speech Lord Kerr Lord Lester Lord Neuberger Lord Phillips Lord Rodger Lord Sumption Lord Taylor LSC tender luftur rahman machine learning MAGA Magna Carta mail on sunday Majority Verdict Malcolm Kennedy malice Margaret Thatcher Margin of Appreciation margin of discretion Maria Gallastegui marriage material support maternity pay Matthew Woods Mattu v The University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust [2011] EWHC 2068 (QB) Maya the Cat Mba v London Borough Of Merton McKenzie friend Media and Censorship Medical medical liability medical negligence medical qualifications medical records medicine mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Capacity Act 2005 Mental Health mental health act mental health advocacy mental health awareness Mental Health Courts Mental illness merits review MGN v UK michael gove Midwives migrant crisis Milly Dowler Ministerial Code Ministry of Justice Ministry of Justice cuts misfeasance in public office modern slavery morality morocco mortuaries motherhood Motor Neurone disease Moulton Mousa MP expenses Mr Gul Mr Justice Eady MS (Palestinian Territories) (FC) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department murder murder reform Musician's Union Muslim NADA v. SWITZERLAND - 10593/08 - HEJUD [2012] ECHR 1691 naked rambler Naomi Campbell nationality National Pro Bono Week national security Natural England nature conservation naturism Nazi negligence Neuberger neuroscience Newcastle university news News of the World new Supreme Court President NHS NHS Risk Register Nick Clegg Nicklinson Niqaab Noise Regulations 2005 Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance nursing nursing home Obituary Occupy London offensive jokes Offensive Speech offensive t shirt oil spill olympics open justice oppress OPQ v BJM orchestra Osama Bin Laden Oxford University paramountcy principle parental rights parenthood parking spaces parliamentary expenses parliamentary expenses scandal Parliamentary sovereignty Parliament square parole board passive smoking pastor Terry Jones patents Pathway Students Patrick Quinn murder Pensions persecution personal data Personal Injury personality rights perversity Peter and Hazelmary Bull PF and EF v UK Phil Woolas phone hacking phone taps physical and mental disabilities physician assisted death Pinnock Piracy Plagiarism planning planning human rights planning system plebgate POCA podcast points Poland Police police investigations police liability police misconduct police powers police surveillance Policy Exchange report political judges Politics Politics/Public Order poor reporting Pope Pope's visit Pope Benedict portal possession proceedings power of attorney PoW letters to ministers pre-nup pre-nuptial Pre-trial detention predator control pregnancy press press briefing press freedom Prince Charles prince of wales princess caroline of monaco principle of subsidiarity prior restraint prison Prisoners prisoners rights prisoners voting prisoner vote prisoner votes prisoner voting prison numbers Prisons prison vote privacy privacy injunction privacy law through the front door Private life private nuisance private use proceeds of crime Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecution Protection of Freedoms Act Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest protest camp protest rights Protocol 15 psychiatric hospitals Public/Private public access publication public authorities Public Bodies Bill public inquiries public interest public interest environmental litigation public interest immunity Public Order Public Sector Equality Duty putting the past behind quango quantum quarantine Queen's Speech queer in the 21st century R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Ors [2011] EWCA Civ 895 R (on the application of) v The General Medical Council [2013] EWHC 2839 (Admin) R (on the application of EH) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 2569 (Admin) R (on the application of G) v The Governors of X School Rabone and another v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust [2012] UKSC 2 race relations Rachel Corrie Radmacher Raed Salah Mahajna Raed Saleh Ramsgate raptors rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion resuscitation RightsInfo right to die right to family life right to life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials security services sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa south african constitution Spain special advocates spending cuts Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance swine flu Syria Tax Taxi technology Terrorism terrorism act tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine unfair consultation universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vaccination vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: