David Miranda detention lawful - High Court judgment demonstrates problem with overbroad Schedule 7 power

19 February 2014

Today the High Court found that David Miranda’s detention under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was lawful.

Miranda was detained by police at Heathrow Airport for nine hours in August 2013. He was questioned under Schedule 7 and freed only when officers reached the legal time limit for either arresting or releasing him. His electronic equipment was confiscated and he was questioned for hours without a lawyer present.

Miranda is the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald who had recently written several stories about the Snowden surveillance revelations for The Guardian. Miranda was helping Greenwald with this work and was on his way back to their home after meeting with a film-maker also working on the surveillance revelations when he was detained.

The Court found that the purpose of the stop – to determine what information Miranda was carrying and ascertain whether its release or dissemination would be severely damaging to UK national security interests – did fall properly within Schedule 7 of the 2000 Act.

Liberty intervened in the case, arguing that it was a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression) that Schedule 7 could be used in this way.

The Judge accepted that the stop constituted an indirect interference with press freedom but held that the interference was justified.

Liberty has long argued that Schedule 7 is overbroad legislation, ripe for misuse and discrimination, and currently has a challenge to the power pending at the European Court of Human Rights.

Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty, said:

“If such a barefaced abuse of power is lawful then the law must change. Miranda’s treatment showed Schedule 7 for what it is: a chillingly over-broad power, routinely misused. People are held and interrogated for hours, their property confiscated while they’re swabbed for saliva – all without any suspicion that they’ve done anything wrong.”

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1. View Liberty’s full intervention in the Miranda case.

2. On 28 May 2013 the European Court of Human Rights considered the arguments and decided that Liberty’s current challenge to the Schedule 7 power is admissible (Application Number 32968/11). The Government is due to submit its response to the claim by 18 March 2014. The case involves a British citizen of Asian origin who was detained at Heathrow under Schedule 7 for four and a half hours in November 2010. During his detention, he was questioned about his salary, his voting habits and the trip he had been on, among other matters. Copies were taken of all his paperwork and credit cards and the police kept his mobile phone, which was only returned to him eight days later after having to pay for its return himself. He had never previously been arrested or detained by the police and was travelling entirely lawfully.