The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Mrs Roberts’ appeal, holding that the safeguards attending the use of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, s 60, power, in particular the requirements to give reasons both for the authorisation and for the stop and search, make it possible to judge whether the power has been exercised lawfully.
Mrs Roberts brought a judicial review against the Police for alleged breaches of her ECHR rights during the searches they carried out on her following her refusal to pay her bus fare in Tottenham. Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal had rejected her claims. The Supreme Court had to consider her claim under the ECHR, art 8, and establish whether the s 60 power was “in accordance with the law” under the Human Rights Act 1998, s 4.
Lady Hale and Lord Reed highlighted that the power found in s 60 was one of the few instances where Parliament has decided that stop and search powers without reasonable grounds to suspect the commission of an offence are necessary for the protection of the public from terrorism or serious crime. It was common ground in the appeal that the power interferes with the right to respect for private life but that it pursues a legitimate aim which is capable of justification under article 8(2).
They emphasised that the incident with Mrs Roberts was in the 17 hours following a period of gang related violence in Haringey where the Police had been authorised to carry out s 60 searches to protect members of the public from serious violence. Lady Hale and Lord Reed therefore reasoned that when PC Reid attended the incident she considered that the appellant was holding her bag in a suspicious manner. She therefore conducted a search of the appellant’s bag exercising the s 60 power, and provided the appellant with a form explaining these reasons.
The Justices explained that this was the first time the s 60 power had been examined by the Supreme Court but that the question to be considered was whether the legal framework permits the court to examine the propriety of the exercise of the power. They concluded that the requirements under s 60 attaching to the authorisation, the operation and the actual encounter on the street, in particular the requirement to give reasons, should make it possible to judge whether the action was ‘necessary in a democratic society for the prevention of disorder or crime’. Therefore, the law itself is not incompatible with the ECHR, art 8.