European Court finds that powers to stop and search individuals at airports are not in accordance with law


Re: Beghal v United Kingdom (App No. 4755/16)

In the case of Beghal v United Kingdom (App No. 4755/16), the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the power to examine persons under the Terrorism Act 2000, Sch 7 was “neither sufficiently circumscribed nor subject to adequate legal safeguards against abuse”.

In determining whether Sch 7 violated the applicant’s art 8 convention rights, the court had to decide whether “the safeguards provided by domestic law sufficiently curtailed the powers, so as to offer her adequate protection against arbitrary interference with her right to respect for her private life.” In assessing this, the court considered:

  • the geographic and temporal scope of the powers;
  • the discretion afforded to the authorities in exercising the powers;
  • any curtailment on the interference;
  • the possibility of judicially reviewing the exercise of the powers; and
  • any independent oversight of the use of the powers.

In considering the absence of any requirement of “reasonable suspicion” together with the fact that the examination could continue for up to nine hours without any right to have a lawyer present and the possible limitations of judicially reviewing the exercise of the power, the Court found that the Sch 7 powers were not “in accordance with the law”. It follows that there had been a violation of ECHR, art 8.

Matthew Ryder QC and Edward Craven were involved in this case.