Press release issued by the Registrar
GILLAN AND QUINTON v. THE UNITED KINGDOM
The European Court of Human Rights is holding a Chamber hearing today Tuesday 12 May 2009 at 9 a.m., on the admissibility and merits in the case of Gillan and Quinton v. the United Kingdom (application no. 4158/05 see also:  ECHR 521). The case concerns police power in the United Kingdom under anti-terrorism legislation to stop and search individuals without reasonable suspicion.
The hearing will be broadcast from 2.30 p.m. on the Court’s Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int).
Summary of the facts
Between 9 and 12 September 2003 there was a Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition (“the arms fair”) at the Excel Centre in Docklands, East London, which was the subject of protests and demonstrations.
The applicants, Mr Kevin Gillan and Ms Pennie Quinton, are British nationals who were born in 1977 and 1971 respectively and live in London. On 9 September 2003 the first applicant was riding a bicycle and carrying a rucksack near the arms fair, on his way to join the demonstration. He was stopped and searched by two police officers acting under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (“the 2000 Act”). He was allowed to go on his way after having been detained for about 20 minutes.
On the same day, the second applicant, a journalist, was stopped close to the arms fair. She was searched by a police officer and ordered to stop filming in spite of the fact that she showed her press cards. The police officer told her that she was using her powers under sections 44 and 45 of the 2000 Act. Nothing incriminating was found and Ms Quinton was allowed to go on her way. The record of her search showed she was stopped for five minutes but she thought it was more like 30 minutes.
The applicants applied for judicial review. They sought to challenge, first, the decision of the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to give an authorisation to stop and search under sections 44(1) and (2) of the 2000 Act in relation to the whole of the Metropolitan District for the period in question, as part of a “rolling programme” of such authorisations, and the decision of the Secretary of State to confirm it. It was submitted that Parliament had intended the section 44 power to stop and search randomly, without the need for reasonable grounds of suspicion, to be used in response to an imminent terrorist threat where general police powers to stop and search were inadequate, and that such an authorisation should be limited, both temporally and geographically. Secondly, the applicants challenged the police decision to use the section 44 power against the protesters, since this use was alleged to be contrary to the purpose of the 2000 Act. It was further alleged that the section 44 authorisations and the use of the stop and search power against the applicants constituted a disproportionate interference with their rights under Articles 5 (right to liberty and security), 8 (right to respect for private and family life), 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
On 31 October 2003 the High Court dismissed the application. The Court of Appeal, on 29 July 2004, made no order on the applicants’ claims against the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and dismissed the claim against the Secretary of State.
On 8 March 2006 the House of Lords unanimously dismissed the applicants’ appeals. In particular, on the question whether either applicant had been deprived of liberty as a result of the stop and search procedure, the Lords accepted that there were some features indicative of a deprivation of liberty, such as the coercive nature of the measure, but given that the procedure was very brief, the better view was that Article 5 of the Convention did not apply. The Lords were further doubtful whether an ordinary superficial search of the person could be said to show a lack of respect for private life, so as to bring Article 8 into operation. Even if Article 8 did apply, the procedure was in accordance with the law and it would be impossible to regard a proper exercise of the power as other than proportionate when seeking to counter the great danger of terrorism. Finally, although the Lords could conceive of the power to stop and search, if misused, as infringing a person’s rights to free expression and assembly, that had not occurred in the applicants’ case.
The applicants complain that the use of the section 44 power to stop and search each of them breached their rights under Articles 5, 8, 10, 11 and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention.
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 26 January 2005.
Composition of the Court
The case will be heard by a Chamber composed as follows:
Garlicki (Poland), President,
Nicolas Bratza (the United Kingdom),
Giovanni Bonello (Malta),
Ljiljana Mijović (Bosnia and Herzegovina),
Päivi Hirvelä (Finland),
Ledi Bianku (Albania),
Nebojša Vučinić (Montenegro), judges,
David Thór Björgvinsson (Iceland),
Ján Šikuta (Slovakia),
Mihai Poalelungi (Moldova), substitute judges,
and also Lawrence Early, Section Registrar.
Representatives of the parties
Government: John Grainger, Agent,
James Eadie, Julian Milford, Counsel,
Martin Kumicki, Alex Mitham, Jessica Gladstone, Advisers;
Applicants: Ben Emmerson, Alex Bailin, Counsel,
Corinna Ferguson, Adviser.
Pennie Quinton will also attend the hearing.
After the hearing the Court will begin its deliberations, which are held in private. A decision on admissibility, followed if appropriate by a judgment, will be delivered at a later date1.
Piedimonte (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 42 04)
Tracey Turner-Tretz (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 30)
Paramy Chanthalangsy (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 28 30)
Kristina Pencheva-Malinowski (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 70)
Céline Menu-Lange (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 58 77)
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.
1 This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.