England's most senior civil judge rules that Terrorism Act violates human rights

Lord Dyson, the most senior civil judge in England and Wales, has ruled that Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act — the law that lets the police detain anyone they like for six hours, without a warrant or access to legal advice, and compel them to answer questions — violates the UK's international human rights obligations.

More than 60,000 people are detained under Schedule 7 every year, most infamously David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda, who was held at Heathrow airport for nine hours in 2013 while carrying an encrypted set of Snowden leaks from Laura Poitras in Germany to Glenn Greenwal in Brazil.

Miranda has been engaged in legal action against the UK government since then, and now has had justice. Dyson's ruling held that although the police had followed the law, the law itself was unjust, especially when used against journalists, issuing a rare "certificate of incompatibility" that invalidates the law when used against journalists.

Parliament can re-establish the law by adding safeguards to it for protection of fundamental human rights, including "judicial or other independent and impartial scrutiny" of the stops, which would be limited to instances in which there was "some intent to cause a serious threat to public safety such as endangering life." The court specifically rejected the UK government's definition of terrorism, which amounted to "anything we don't like," especially publishing Snowden leaks.

In response to the ruling, the Home Office said: "We have always been clear that David Miranda's examination by police under schedule 7 was lawful and proportionate. The court of appeal's judgment in this case supports the action taken by police to protect national security.

"We also note the court's decision that schedule 7, as in force at the time of this incident, did not provide sufficient protection against the examination of journalistic material."

Terrorism Act incompatible with human rights, court rules in David Miranda case
[Owen Bowcott/The Guardian]