Fox, Campbell and Hartley v United Kingdom (1990) 13 EHRR 157
.....I. PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
8. The first and second applicants, Mr Bernard Fox and Ms Maire Campbell, are husband and wife but separated. Both reside in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
9. On 5 February 1986 they were stopped by the police in Belfast and brought to Woodbourne Royal Ulster Constabulary ("RUC") station, where a full search of the vehicle in which they were travelling was carried out. Twenty-five minutes after their arrival at the police station, at 3.40 p.m., they were formally arrested under section 11 (1) of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 ("the 1978 Act"; see paragraph 16 below). They were informed that they were being arrested under this section and that this was because the arresting officer suspected them of being terrorists. They were also told that they could be detained for up to 72 hours. They were taken to Castlereagh Police Office, where they were separately interviewed by the police on the same day between 8.15 p.m. and 10.00 p.m.
10. During their detention Mr Fox and Ms Campbell were asked about their suspected involvement that day in intelligence gathering and courier work for the Provisional Irish Republican Army ("Provisional IRA"). They were also questioned about their suspected membership of this organisation. According to the Government, the information underlying the suspicion against them was already known to the police when they stopped their car.
No charges were brought against either applicant. The first applicant was released at 11.40 a.m. on 7 February 1986 and the second applicant five minutes later. Excluding the time taken to bring them to the police station, the first applicant had thus been detained 44 hours and the second applicant 44 hours and 5 minutes.
11. On being arrested both Mr Fox and Ms Campbell were shown the notice drawn up for persons held in police custody which explained their rights. They were not brought before a judge or given any opportunity to apply for release on bail. On 6 February they both initiated proceedings for habeas corpus but were released before the applications came on for hearing before a judge.
12. Mr Fox had been convicted in 1979 of several explosives offences, for which he received concurrent sentences of 12 years' imprisonment, and of belonging to the IRA, for which he received a concurrent sentence of 5 years. Ms Campbell received an 18 months' suspended sentence in 1979 after being convicted of involvement in explosives offences.
13. The third applicant, Mr Samuel Hartley, resides in Waterfoot, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. On 18 August 1986 he was arrested at his home, in his parents' presence, at 7.55 a.m. He was informed at the time of his arrest that he was being arrested under section 11 (1) of the 1978 Act as he was suspected of being a terrorist. He was taken to Antrim police station where, on arrival, he was shown a copy of the notice for persons held in police custody. He was interviewed there by the police between 11.05 a.m. and 12.15 p.m.
14. Mr Hartley was suspected of involvement in a kidnapping incident which had taken place earlier that month in Ballymena when a young man and woman were forcibly taken away by masked armed men. Those involved in the kidnapping were thought to have connections with the Provisional IRA. The motive behind the kidnapping was believed to have been an attempt to force the young woman to retract an allegation of rape made the previous year as a result of which a person had been convicted and sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment. The Government said at the Commission hearing that their record of the first interview with Mr Hartley showed that he was questioned about terrorist activities in a specific small, geographical area, and about his involvement with the Provisional IRA. The record is not more detailed than that, but the area in question was where the kidnapping took place. The applicant Hartley denied any involvement in the kidnapping incident but he has not contradicted the Government's assertion that he was asked about it.
No charges were brought against him. He was released on 19 August 1986 at 2.10 p.m. after 30 hours and 15 minutes in detention. He brought no proceedings in connection with his arrest or detention.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
15. For the past 20 years the population of Northern Ireland, which totals 1.5 million people, has been subjected to a campaign of terrorism (see the Ireland v. the United Kingdom judgment of 18 January 1978, Series A no. 25, pp. 9-31, §§ 11-77, and the Brogan and Others judgment of 29 November 1988, Series A no. 145-B, p. 21, § 25). More than 2,750 people, including almost 800 members of the security forces, have been killed and 31,900 more have been maimed or injured. The campaign of terror has extended to the rest of the United Kingdom and to the mainland of Europe.
Special legislation has been introduced in an attempt to deal with this situation in Northern Ireland. Thus, the 1978 Act and its predecessors, the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 ("the 1973 Act") and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) (Amendment) Act 1975 ("the 1975 Act"), were enacted to enable the security forces to deal more effectively with the threat of terrorism.
B. Section 11 of the 1978 Act
16. Section 11 of the 1978 Act conferred, inter alia, a power of arrest. The relevant parts of section 11, which was repealed in 1987, provided as follows:
"1. Any constable may arrest without warrant any person whom he suspects of being a terrorist.....
3. A person arrested under this section shall not be detained in right of the arrest for more than seventy-two hours after his arrest, and section 132 of the Magistrates' Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 and section 50(3) of the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 (requirement to bring arrested person before a magistrates' court not later than forty-eight hours after his arrest) shall not apply to any such person.".....
20. The exercise of the power of arrest in section 11 (1) has been considered by the House of Lords in the case of McKee v. Chief Constable for Northern Ireland . In that case the House of Lords held that the proper exercise of the power of arrest in section 11 depended upon the state of mind of the arresting officer. It was necessary that the arresting officer suspected the person he was arresting to be a terrorist; otherwise the arrest was unlawful. He could form that suspicion on the basis of information given to him by his superior officer, but he could not arrest under section 11 on the instructions of a superior officer who held the necessary suspicion unless the arresting officer himself held that suspicion. Lord Roskill, with whom the other Law Lords agreed, stated that the suspicion need not be a reasonable suspicion but it had to be honestly held. The requirement of a suspicion in the mind of a constable was a subjective test. That being so, the courts could only enquire as to the bona fides of the existence of the suspicion. The only issues were whether the constable had a suspicion and whether it was honestly held.
21. In addition, an arrest without warrant is subject to the common law rules laid down by the House of Lords in the case of Christie v. Leachinsky  AC 573 at 587 and 600. The person arrested must in ordinary circumstances be informed of the true grounds for his arrest, in a language which he understands, at the time he is taken into custody, or, if special circumstances exist to excuse this, as soon thereafter as it is reasonably practicable to inform him. A person is validly arrested under section 11 (1) of the 1978 Act if he is informed that he is being arrested under this provision as a suspected terrorist (in re McElduff  Northern Ireland Reports 1 and McKee v. Chief Constable, loc. cit.).
22. Section 11 (1) of the 1978 Act was replaced by section 6 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1987, which came into effect on 15 June 1987, subsequent to the facts of the present case. This new provision is confined to conferring a power of entry and search of premises for the purpose of arresting persons under section 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 (now section 14 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 - see the Brogan and Others judgment previously cited, Series A no. 145-B, p. 22, § 30). These latter provisions expressly limit powers of arrest without a warrant to cases in which there are "reasonable grounds" for suspicion.
AS TO THE LAW
I. GENERAL APPROACH
28. The applicants' complaints are directed against their arrest and detention under criminal legislation enacted to deal with acts of terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland.
Over the last twenty years, the campaign of terrorism waged in Northern Ireland has taken a heavy toll, especially in terms of human life and suffering (see paragraph 15 above). The Court has already recognised the need, inherent in the Convention system, for a proper balance between the defence of the institutions of democracy in the common interest and the protection of individual rights (see the Brogan and Others judgment of 29 November 1988, Series A no. 145-B, p. 27, § 48). Accordingly, when examining these complaints the Court will, as it did in the Brogan and Others judgment, take into account the special nature of terrorist crime and the exigencies of dealing with it, as far as is compatible with the applicable provisions of the Convention in the light of their particular wording and its overall object and purpose.
II. ALLEGED BREACH OF ARTICLE 5 § 1 (art. 5-1)
29. The applicants alleged a breach of Article 5 § 1 (art. 5-1) of the Convention, which, in so far as relevant, provides:
"Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
(c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence ...;
They did not dispute that their arrest was "lawful" under Northern Ireland law for the purposes of this provision and, in particular, "in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law".
30. They did, however, argue that they had not been arrested and detained on "reasonable" suspicion of having committed an offence. Section 11 (1) of the 1978 Act, provided that "any constable may arrest without warrant any person whom he suspects of being a terrorist" (see paragraphs 9, 13 and 16 above). In their submission, this section was itself in direct conflict with Article 5 § 1 (c) (art. 5-1-c) in that it did not contain any requirement of reasonableness. They further agreed with the Commission's opinion that their arrests had not been shown on the facts to have been based on reasonable suspicion.
In addition, they maintained that the purpose of their arrest was not to bring them before the "competent legal authority" but rather to gather information without necessarily intending to charge them with a criminal offence. Both the respondent Government and the Commission rejected this contention.
31. For an arrest to be lawful under section 11 (1) of the 1978 Act, as construed by the House of Lords in the case of McKee v. Chief Constable for Northern Ireland, the suspicion needed only to be honestly held (see paragraph 20 above). In his report to Parliament in 1984, the Right Honourable Sir George Baker highlighted the fact that the test for section 11 was a "subjective one". On the other hand, where the requirement was "reasonable suspicion" he considered that the test was "objective" and that it was "for the court to judge the reasonableness of the suspicion" (see paragraph 19 above).
Article 5 § 1 (c) (art. 5-1-c) speaks of a "reasonable suspicion" rather than a genuine and bona fide suspicion. The Court's task, however, is not to review the impugned legislation in abstracto but to examine its application in these particular cases.
32. The "reasonableness" of the suspicion on which an arrest must be based forms an essential part of the safeguard against arbitrary arrest and detention which is laid down in Article 5 § 1 (c) (art. 5-1-c). The Court agrees with the Commission and the Government that having a "reasonable suspicion" presupposes the existence of facts or information which would satisfy an objective observer that the person concerned may have committed the offence. What may be regarded as "reasonable" will however depend upon all the circumstances.
In this respect, terrorist crime falls into a special category. Because of the attendant risk of loss of life and human suffering, the police are obliged to act with utmost urgency in following up all information, including information from secret sources. Further, the police may frequently have to arrest a suspected terrorist on the basis of information which is reliable but which cannot, without putting in jeopardy the source of the information, be revealed to the suspect or produced in court to support a charge.
As the Government pointed out, in view of the difficulties inherent in the investigation and prosecution of terrorist-type offences in Northern Ireland, the "reasonableness" of the suspicion justifying such arrests cannot always be judged according to the same standards as are applied in dealing with conventional crime. Nevertheless, the exigencies of dealing with terrorist crime cannot justify stretching the notion of "reasonableness" to the point where the essence of the safeguard secured by Article 5 § 1 (c) (art. 5-1-c) is impaired (see, mutatis mutandis, the Brogan and Others judgment previously cited, Series A no. 145-B, pp. 32-33, § 59).
33. The majority of the Commission, with whom the applicants agreed, were of the opinion that: "the Government [had] not provided any information which would allow the Commission to conclude that the suspicions against the applicants at the time of their arrest were 'reasonable' within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 (c) (art. 5-1-c) of the Convention or that their arrest was based on anything more than the 'honestly held suspicion' which was required under Northern Ireland law" (see paragraph 61 of the Commission's report)".
The Government argued that they were unable to disclose the acutely sensitive material on which the suspicion against the three applicants was based because of the risk of disclosing the source of the material and thereby placing in danger the lives and safety of others. In support of their contention that there was nevertheless reasonable suspicion, they pointed to the facts that the first two applicants had previous convictions for serious acts of terrorism connected with the Provisional IRA (see paragraph 12 above) and that all three applicants were questioned during their detention about specific terrorist acts of which they were suspected (see paragraphs 10 and 14 above). In the Government's submission these facts were sufficient to confirm that the arresting officer had a bona fide or genuine suspicion and they maintained that there was no difference in substance between a bona fide or genuine suspicion and a reasonable suspicion. The Government observed moreover that the applicants themselves did not contest that they were arrested and detained in connection with acts of terrorism (see paragraph 55 of the Commission's report).
The Government also stated that, although they could not disclose the information or identify the source of the information which led to the arrest of the applicants, there did exist in the case of the first and second applicants strong grounds for suggesting that at the time of their arrest the applicants were engaged in intelligence gathering and courier work for the Provisional IRA and that in the case of the third applicant there was available to the police material connecting him with the kidnapping attempt about which he was questioned.
34. Certainly Article 5 § 1 (c) (art. 5-1-c) of the Convention should not be applied in such a manner as to put disproportionate difficulties in the way of the police authorities of the Contracting States in taking effective measures to counter organised terrorism (see, mutatis mutandis, the Klass and Others judgment of 6 September 1978, Series A no. 28, pp. 27 and 30-31, §§ 58 and 68). It follows that the Contracting States cannot be asked to establish the reasonableness of the suspicion grounding the arrest of a suspected terrorist by disclosing the confidential sources of supporting information or even facts which would be susceptible of indicating such sources or their identity.
Nevertheless the Court must be enabled to ascertain whether the essence of the safeguard afforded by Article 5 § 1 (c) (art. 5-1-c) has been secured. Consequently the respondent Government have to furnish at least some facts or information capable of satisfying the Court that the arrested person was reasonably suspected of having committed the alleged offence. This is all the more necessary where, as in the present case, the domestic law does not require reasonable suspicion, but sets a lower threshold by merely requiring honest suspicion.
35. The Court accepts that the arrest and detention of each of the present applicants was based on a bona fide suspicion that he or she was a terrorist, and that each of them, including Mr Hartley, was questioned during his or her detention about specific terrorist acts of which he or she was suspected.
The fact that Mr Fox and Ms Campbell both have previous convictions for acts of terrorism connected with the IRA (see paragraph 12 above), although it could reinforce a suspicion linking them to the commission of terrorist-type offences, cannot form the sole basis of a suspicion justifying their arrest in 1986, some seven years later.
The fact that all the applicants, during their detention, were questioned about specific terrorist acts, does no more than confirm that the arresting officers had a genuine suspicion that they had been involved in those acts, but it cannot satisfy an objective observer that the applicants may have committed these acts.
The aforementioned elements on their own are insufficient to support the conclusion that there was "reasonable suspicion". The Government have not provided any further material on which the suspicion against the applicants was based. Their explanations therefore do not meet the minimum standard set by Article 5 § 1 (c) (art. 5-1-c) for judging the reasonableness of a suspicion for the arrest of an individual.
36. The Court accordingly holds that there has been a breach of Article 5 § 1 (art. 5-1).