Public Law

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The Belmarsh Prison case – more formally known as A v Secretary of State for the Home Department – was decided in 2004 by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (the forerunner of today’s United Kingdom Supreme Court). The case was brought by a number of foreign nationals who were held indefinitely in Belmarsh Prison in London because the British Government suspected them of being international terrorists. However, they had not been charged with – far less convicted of – any relevant criminal offence. Rather, they were imprisoned under special powers granted to the Government by the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, which was enacted in the immediate aftermath of the events of September 11th 2001 in the United States.

In the videos below, Dr Mark Elliott explores how the Belmarsh detainees were able to use human rights law to challenge their detention, why the court was not ultimately able to order their release, and what this case – and its political aftermath – tells us about how the modern British constitution works.

Have a look through the online resources listed below, watch the videos and then have a go at the questions.

Online Resources

The Belmarsh Prison case
Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (since repealed)
Human Rights Act 1998
European Convention on Human Rights


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3