The United Kingdom Supreme Court yesterday ruled that it’s lawful for the police to use preventative arrests as a tool to maintain public order and keep the peace.
The judgement comes at a time when there’s intense debate in Jamaica over the lawfulness of preventative detention.
Last week, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte announced that the Police have been told to intensify the use of preventative detention.
This, as a policy initiative to bring under control, violent crime, and in particular domestic violence.
The four appellants were arrested on April 29, 2011 in Central London on the day of the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
In the build up to the royal wedding, the police had intelligence that activities aimed at disrupting the celebrations were being planned through social media websites.
They were taken into custody on the grounds that their arrest was reasonably believed to be necessary to prevent an imminent breach of the peace.
The four were all released without charge once the wedding was over and the police considered the risk of a breach of the peace had been passed.
Their period of detention ranged from 2-and-a-half to 5-and-a-half hours.
They argued that their detention violated their rights under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It was on this issue that they were granted permission to appeal.
The police argued that the appellants’ detention was lawful under a section of the convention which allows for the lawful detention of a person in order to secure the fulfillment of an obligation prescribed by law.
The Police also noted that the convention allows for the detention of a person when the arrest is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his or her committing an offence.
The Supreme Court found that the fundamental principle underlying article five of the European Convention on Human Rights is the need to protect the individual from arbitrary detention.
However, in upholding the lawfulness of the preventative detention practice, the Court said that the article must not be interpreted in ways that would make it impracticable for the police to perform their duty to maintain public order and protect the lives and property of others.
The court noted that the power of the police, or any other citizen, to carry out an arrest to prevent an imminent breach of the peace is ancient, but remains relevant today.
It says the power to arrest to prevent a breach of the peace, which has not yet occurred, is confined to a situation in which the person making the arrest reasonably believes that a breach of the peace is likely to happen in the near future.
It added that there is only a power of arrest if it’s a necessary and proportionate response to the risk.
The Court ruled that the ability of the police to perform their duty would be severely hampered if they could not lawfully arrest and detain a person for a relatively short time.
This is a time which is too short for it to be practical to take the person before a court.
Lord Toulson concluded that the construct of the law allows for the Police to take action to prevent an imminent breach of the peace where there is insufficient time to give a warning or bring a person before the Court.
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