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ECHR rules detention of Irish citizens for terror offences not unlawful

Colin Duffy, Gabriel Magee and Teresa Magee were held without charge for 12 days.

Colin Duffy
Colin Duffy
Image: Murcha MacSeain via YouTube

Updated 10.15am

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled the detention of three Irish citizens who had been suspected of terrorist offences was not in breach European Convention on Human Rights.

Gabriel Magee, Colin Francis Duffy and Teresa Magee, who live in Belfast, Lurgan and Craigavon respectively, were arrested on the same day in 2009.

Gabriel and Teresa Magee were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder of a police officer. Duffy was arrested for his suspected involvement in the murder of two soldiers.

After their initial arrests, no charges were brought against Gabriel or Teresa Magee. Duffy was charged for the murder of the two soldiers and five other attempted murders but was later cleared of all charges in 2012.

Detention period extended

These arrests were made under the UK’s Terrorism Act. The normal length a prisoner is allowed to be held for without charge is 48 hours. The Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK sought extensions to this to allow for forensic tests to be carried out.

After being arrested, the three individuals involved in this incident sought a judicial review of the decision by a County Court judge to extend their detention beyond 48 hours.

The High Court ruled that the initial decision should have considered the lawfulness of the arrests, and as this was not taken into account, the decision to extend their detention was quashed.

All three were then released, having spent 12 days in detention.

They had a complaint that Schedule 8 of the UK’s Terrorism Act – which defines the terms for detention – was incompatible with articles in the European Convention of Human Rights that outline entitlement to a trial within a certain time frame and release pending trial.

This complaint was rejected in 2011 by the High Court, allowing for the case to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Relying in particular on Article 5 and 3 – the right to liberty and security / entitlement to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial – the three complained
their detention under the UK’s Terrorism Act had been incompatible with the rules governing lawful arrest and detention under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ECHR ruled that there was no violation of either Articles in respect of Mr and Ms Magee.

The court  further declared inadmissible Duffy’s application as well Mr and Ms Magee’s complaint under Article 5 and 2 of the Convention – the right to be informed of the reasons for arrest.

Controversial law

The UK Terrorism Act 2000 has previously drawn controversy surrounding the additional powers it has given to police enforcement.

In 2005, Sally Cameron was arrested for four hours under the act after walking on a cycle path.

In 2008, a 12-year-old autistic boy with cerebral palsy was was detained along with his parents after the family were suspected of child trafficking. Kent Police later apologised for the incident.

Originally published at 6am. Additional reporting Christina Finn 

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