42 Day Detention, Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus

Predictably, a whole load of journalists and politicians have been trotting out well-worn cliches concerning the threat to ‘habeus corpus, the idea born in Magna Carta which has inspired every democracy that ever existed.’ (sic.)

I don’t think anyone has put the *actual* content of Magna Carta better than Seller and Yeatman in 1066 And All That:

  1. That no one was to be put to death save for some reason – (except the Common People)

Magna Carta simply guarantees that ‘due process’ will be followed. If due process involves banging people up for 42 days without charge, that’s fine. Whether this contravenes the HRA is another matter, but given the nature of British law, either way it won’t formally annul a new counter-terrorism act.

Likewise Habeas Corpus, which was not enshrined in Magna Carta but is a piece of late medieval law finally codified in the 1679 Habeas Corpus Act. Writs of Habeas Corpus only demanded that the lawfulness of the prisoner’s detention be examined. Hence, though such writs could notionally have been used during, say, the periods of internment during the First and Second World Wars, they would have been legally useless because of the terms of the Defence of the Realm Acts. The same will apply to the counter-terrorism bill, should it come into force.

I’ve blathered on about all this before. Yes, the counter-terrorism bill is a terrible piece of legislation, but it signifies less a devil-may-care attitude to our civil liberties (though that, of course, is wholly evident) and more the very limited nature of ‘British liberty’ itself.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. And by implicaton our EU brothers and sisters are more free than we are with our limited british liberties?

    the best way of defending our rights is thru politics and democracy not thru BS instruments such as HRA. when one lot balls up we need the power to sent another lot to deal with it, unfortuatly our gagged token democracy does not allow us to deviate from the EU line.

  2. Is this a spoof?

  3. […] Davis and Magna Cartaballs Over at the New Statesman, Simon Hooper has kindly linked to my earlier comments about Davis’ ‘defence’ of Magna Carta. Published […]

  4. […] still live in the forest, wtf?), because the Lord Regent wants to overturn the Magna Carta and thus End Freedom and Democracy.  Robin gets help from his son, who has been educated in all things Robin Hoody, up to and […]


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