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Schedule 7 Terrorism Act 2000: right to consult with a solicitor in person

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Today the High Court ruled that a person detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is entitled to consult in person with a solicitor at any time. 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 Law Society’s argument was that it is unlawful to restrict a person being detained at a port or airport under Schedule 7 to be only entitled to legal advice over the telephone.

Mr Justice Bean said in his judgement “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”.

What the High Court’s decision shows is that a solicitor’s role is fundamentally important in advising detainees at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. A solicitor’s presence provides a fundamental safeguard to detainees and this ruling sought to clarify that there is no sound reason why the 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.

However, the ruling begs the question, now that solicitors will be able to attend in person an interview being conducted under the provisions of Schedule 7, how will a detainee be able to choose a solicitor who has the competence and training to deal with this complex area of law?

MPR solicitors were asked to represent an individual stopped under the UK’s most draconian stop and search powers introduced by Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 at Heathrow Airport. The client was entering the UK from the Middle East and was a suspected terrorist with links to underground opposition parties in Bahrain and Al Qaida. One of MPR’s expert criminal solicitors in Terrorism Law was instructed to advise and represent. The case was successfully resolved after the advice given by specialist Terrorism lawyer at MPR Solicitors. Our client’s main concern was not to be associated with the false accusations of being involved in terrorist activities or being linked to underground organisations in his country of origin.

At MPR Solicitors, we are uniquely placed to provide rapid deployment of expert legal advice at Heathrow Airport and surrounding detention areas as our Head Offices are located in Hounslow within 15 minutes of Heathrow Airport and its perimeter roads and only 1 hour away from Central London. We also have connections to Gatwick Airport and are able to deploy legal representatives fast and efficiently to assist in emergency situations. Our City of London office can deal with any major terrorism case within Central London.

MPR Solicitors will deploy its expert terrorism lawyers anywhere within the jurisdiction of England and Wales and we pride ourselves in offering a 24 hour, 7 days a week, fast and highly specialist service.

We have close links with specialist chambers dealing with terrorism and extradition cases and we can instruct expert barristers and QCs to form a pro-active defence team in a client’s case.