Another hall of mirrors human rights story from the Telegraph

27 October 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 10.46.13Yesterday saw another poor piece of human rights reporting from the Telegraph, again from Home Affairs Correspondent David Barrett. Strasbourg human rights court threatens key counter-terrorism powers. It is a typical piece of hall-of-mirrors reporting; all of the basic elements are there but presented in a distorted and inaccurate way.

The piece is about the case of Sabure Malik, a British investment banker who was stopped by police in 2010 at Heathrow on his way back from an organised package tour to undertake the Hajj. Full details of his case, which is supported by Liberty, are in the Euoprean Court of Human Rights’ admissibility decision here. It was granted permission to proceed in May 2013, well before the David Miranda controversy which took place in August.

I’ll take this shortly.

First, “a legal challenge seeking to strike out the controversial powers“. The court has no power to strike out anything. It will rule on the compatibility or otherwise of the Schedule 7 (of the Terrorism Act 2000) powers of search and detention with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). If it rules the powers are incompatible then the UK Government, which has agreed to “abide by” judgments of the court by signing up to the ECHR, will be under an obligation to change the law in order to make it compatible.

However, because the court has no power to strike down our legislation, the ruling will have no effect on the anti-terrorism powers until the Government decides to implement it. Although this would be bad form, it could also ignore the judgment or procrastinate, as it has been doing for eight years in relation to the prisoner voting case.

Second, this is a partial and inaccurate summary of the recent Joint Committee on Human Rights report on antiterrorism powers:

Earlier this month members of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights found there was a “clear” case to retain the powers. MPs and peers on the committee said allowing police to stop and search suspects at airports without suspicion were “not inherently incompatible” with human rights laws.

Barrett  says the court is examining the powers “even though a thorough inquiry by British MPs and peers has already concluded the powers are compatible with human rights law”. But that is not what the report says. The full report is here and the relevant part here.

Whilst it is correct to say that the committee found “a statutory power to stop, question and search travellers at ports and airports, without reasonable suspicion, is not inherently incompatible” with the ECHR, it also said this:

Whether it is so compatible, however, depends on whether there has been shown to be a very clear need for such a power, and whether the power is sufficiently narrowly defined and subject to sufficiently robust safeguards to ensure that it is confined to the exceptional circumstances in which it is shown to be needed. It follows that the wider the scope of the powers available, and the fewer the legal safeguards, the greater the risk of incompatibility with the right to liberty and the right to respect for private life.

So whilst a stop and search power without reasonable suspicion could in principle be compatible, whether it is compatible depends on how it is formulated and exercised. And the JCHR is unconvinced that the powers as they currently stand are indeed compatible:

We have considered carefully whether the Government has demonstrated the necessity for these more intrusive powers being exercisable without reasonable suspicion, and we are not persuaded that they have… We recommend that the reasonable suspicion threshold be introduced at the point at which the person being examined is formally detained, which the Bill requires to happen after an hour of questioning.

So to say that the JCHR concluded that the stop and search powers are “are compatible with human rights law”” is  wrong and a misrepresentation. That is almost the exact opposite of what they found. Indeed, Barrett’s own previous report on the JCHR’s recommendations provides a more nuanced view.

If hall-of-mirrors human rights reporting bothers you, please do complain to the Press Complaints Commission – just click here. It does sometimes make a difference. Indeed, I am reliably informed that some fairly major corrections are incoming in relation to the recent human rights damages debacle, reported by the Mail, Telegraph and others.

For more of this, I am giving evidence with Joshua Rozenberg this Wednesday to the Joint Select Committee on the Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill – you can watch live, all details here.

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

Related posts:


  1. Ma says:

    Saudis would never agree…..women would want to drive cars next Andrew !
    Manal Al Sharif (with English subtitles):

  2. Andrew says:

    Slightly o/t: but a very good reaction would be to allow any British citizen to have two passports so as to defeat such restrictions imposed by Saudi Arabia, a country well-known for its respect for human rights. At the moment the Passport Agency will only issue a second passport to people needing to travel to the country-which-says-no for business reasons; if they are now treating the Hajj as a business reason well and good, but they should go further and allow it to anyone wanting to travel for any reason. If every Western country did that so that the theocracies and dictatorships could not in practice exclude those who have been to Israel (or in the case China Taiwan – and there may be others) (a) the t’s and d’s might stop bothering to try and (b) the two-pssports flag would become meaningless.

    Does anyone see a downside?

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.




Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals Anne Sacoolas 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 blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board care homes Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Commission on a Bill of Rights common law communications competition confidentiality consent conservation constitution contact order contact tracing contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus coronavirus act 2020 costs costs budgets Court of Protection covid crime criminal law Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation DEFRA deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention Dignitas diplomacy diplomatic relations disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Equality Act 2010 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 evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Facebook Facial Recognition Family Fatal Accidents Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage gay rights Gaza Gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Gun Control hague convention Harry Dunn Health HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Human Rights Watch Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests insurance international law internet inuit Iran Iraq Ireland islam Israel Italy IVF ivory ban Japan joint enterprise judaism judicial review Judicial Review reform Julian Assange jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid legal aid cuts Leveson Inquiry lgbtq liability Libel Liberty Libya lisbon treaty Lithuania local authorities marriage Media and Censorship mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery morocco murder music Muslim nationality national security naturism neuroscience NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance Obituary ouster clauses parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury physician assisted death Piracy Plagiarism planning planning system Poland Police Politics Pope press prison Prisoners prisoner votes Prisons privacy procurement Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecutions prostituton Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries quarantine Radicalisation refugee rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania round-up Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials sexual offence shamima begum Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance sweatshops Syria Tax technology Terrorism The Round Up tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine universal credit universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Weekly Round-up 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: