A and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department (No 2): HL 8 Dec 2005

Evidence from 3rd Party Torture Inadmissible

The applicants had been detained following the issue of certificates issued by the respondent that they posed a terrorist threat. They challenged the decisions of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission saying that evidence underlying the decisions had probably been obtained by torture committed by foreign powers, and should not have been admitted. The respondent said that in the absence of evidence that torture had been used, the evidence should be admitted.
Held: The appeal succeeded. Evidence obtained by means of torture should not be admitted. Protection against the use of torture is a fundamental right. The common law has not for many years admitted such evidence. The Home Secretary’s attempted distinction between evidence derived from torture by friendly foreign states and by the UK was unsustainable. The Torture Convention barred the use of such information wherever gathered.
The executive made different kinds of decisions to those made by the courts, and might act on a wider range of material, but courts could not countenance use of such evidence. The Home Secretary’s suggestion that the courts might act on evidence not proved to be obtained in this way was also unsustainable. The normal rules of evidence could not be applied. A suspect was not in a position to raise proof of the provenance of evidence he was not allowed to know of. The Torture Convention set a standard, which the courts must apply, that of testing whether such provenance had been established, by whatever means was available to it: ‘a conventional approach to the burden of proof is appropriate in a proceeding where the appellant may not know the name or identity of the author of an adverse statement relied on against him, may not see the statement or know what the statement says, may not be able to discuss the adverse evidence with the special advocate appointed (without responsibility) to represent his interests, and may have no means of knowing what witness he should call to rebut assertions of which he is unaware. It would, on the other hand, render section 25 appeals all but unmanageable if a generalised and unsubstantiated allegation of torture were in all cases to impose a duty on the Secretary of State to prove the absence of torture. It is necessary, in this very unusual forensic setting, to devise a procedure which affords some protection to an appellant without imposing on either party a burden which he cannot ordinarily discharge. ‘
Lord Brown of Eaton-Under-Heywood: ‘SIAC could never properly uphold a section 23 detention order where the sole or decisive evidence supporting it is a statement established to have been coerced by the use of torture. To hold otherwise would be, as several of your Lordships have observed, to bring British justice into disrepute. And this is so notwithstanding that the appellant was properly certified and detained by the Secretary of State in the interests of national security, notwithstanding that the legislation (now, of course, repealed) allowed the appellant’s continuing detention solely on the ground of suspicion and belief, notwithstanding that the incriminating coerced statement was made not by the appellant himself but by some third party, and notwithstanding that it was made abroad and without the complicity of any British official. ‘
Lord Bingham said: ‘There is reason to regard it as a duty of states, save perhaps in limited and exceptional circumstances, as where immediately necessary to protect a person from unlawful violence or property from destruction, to reject the fruits of torture inflicted in breach of international law. As McNally JA put it in S v Nkomo 1989 (3) ZLR 117, 131: ‘It does not seem to me that one can condemn torture while making use of the mute confession resulting from torture, because the effect is to encourage torture.”


Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Carswell, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood


[2005] 3 WLR 1249, [2006] 2 AC 221, [2005] UKHL 71, Times 09-Dec-2005, [2006] 1 All ER 575, 19 BHRC 441, [2006] UKHRR 225, [2006] HRLR 6


Bailii, House of Lords


Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 21 23 25, European Convention on Human Rights 5(1)(f)


England and Wales


See AlsoA v Secretary of State for the Home Department, and X v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 16-Dec-2004
The applicants had been imprisoned and held without trial, being suspected of international terrorism. No criminal charges were intended to be brought. They were foreigners and free to return home if they wished, but feared for their lives if they . .
CitedPearse v Pearse 2-Jan-1846
Legal privilege was claimed for communications related to transactions concerning the client’s lands and unconnected with any existing or anticipated litigation.
Held: The work done was all part of one transaction of the nature in which . .
CitedIbrahim v The King PC 6-Mar-1914
(Hong Kong) The defendant was an Afghan subject with the British Army in Hong Kong. He was accused of murder. Having accepted the protection of the British Armed forces, he became subject to their laws. In custody, he was asked about the offence by . .
CitedCustoms and Excise Commissioners v Harz and Power; Regina v Harz and Power HL 1967
The rule that a confessional statement is not admissible if it was induced by a fear of prejudice or a hope of advantage exercised or held out by a person in authority applies equally where the inducement does not relate to the actual or . .
CitedHui Chi-ming v The Queen PC 5-Aug-1991
(Hong Kong) The defendant was charged with aiding and abetting a murder. A, carrying a length of water pipe and accompanied by the defendant and four other youths, seized a man and A hit him with the pipe, causing injuries from which he died. No . .
CitedA, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, Mahmoud Abu Rideh Jamal Ajouaou v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 11-Aug-2004
The claimants had each been detained without trial for more than two years, being held as suspected terrorists. They were free leave to return to their own countries, but they feared for their lives if returned. They complained that the evidence . .
CitedNadeem Akhtar Saifi v Governor of Brixton Prison and Union of India Admn 21-Dec-2000
The applicant for habeas corpus resisted extradition to India on the ground, among others, that the prosecution relied on a statement obtained by torture and since retracted.
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CitedRex v Warickshall 1783
Evidence that stolen goods were found under the bed of the accused was admitted notwithstanding that the discovery was made in consequence of her inadmissible confession. Evidence obtained by oppression should be admitted to court. Involuntary . .
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A police constable, who apprehended a man on a charge of murder, having told him the nature of the charge aganist him, said ‘he need not say any thing to criminate himself – what he did say would he taken down, and used as evidence against him.’ The . .
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The defendant was convicted of fraud charges. He sought to have excluded statements made in interview on the basis that they had been obtained by oppressive behaviour by the police. His wife was very seriously ill in hospital and he had made the . .
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The inadmissibility of a confession not proved to be voluntary is perhaps the most fundamental rule of the English criminal law.
Lord Griffiths summarised the justification for the rule excluding evidence obtained improperly. Accepting that ‘a . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Ping Lin PC 1976
The Board was asked whether a statement by the defendant was shown to be voluntary.
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The voir dire system allows a defendant to give his evidence on the limited issues surrounding the circumstances under which his statement was made as to the admissibility of the confession, without infringing his right to elect not to give evidence . .
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The defendant had been brought to the UK in a manner which was in breach of extradition law. He had, in effect, been kidnapped by the authorities.
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The defendant had been lured into the UK by the unlawful acts of customs officers. He claimed abuse of process.
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British authorities, in disregard of available extradition procedures, initiated and procured the unlawful deportation of the appellant from Zimbabwe to England. The appellant was charged and tried for conspiracy to cause explosions likely to . .
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The applicant had faced charges of hiring someone to kill his wife. He complained about the use of a recording of his telephone conversation with the man he hired recorded unlawfully by that man.
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Each defendant challenged the way he had been treated on revocation of his parole licence, saying he should have been given the opportunity to make oral representations.
Held: The prisoners’ appeals were allowed.
Lord Bingham stated: . .
CitedRegina v Looseley (orse Loosely); Attorney General’s Reference No 3 of 2000 HL 25-Oct-2001
Police Entrapment is no defence to Criminal Act
The defendant complained of his conviction for supplying controlled drugs, saying that the undercover police officer had requested him to make the supply.
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(Plenary Court) The applicant was held in prison in the UK, pending extradition to the US to face allegations of murder, for which he faced the risk of the death sentence, which would be unlawful in the UK. If extradited, a representation would be . .
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The complainant had been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking and was detained on remand. When he brought an application for review of his detention his lawyers were not given access to a number of documents in the file, including the . .
CitedKhan v The United Kingdom ECHR 12-May-2000
Evidence was acknowledged to have been obtained unlawfully and in breach of another article of the Convention. The police had installed covert listening devices on private property without the knowledge or consent of the owner. UK national law did . .
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The matter of admissibility of evidence is primarily one for the national courts: ‘It [the Court] recalls that the admissibility of evidence is primarily a matter for regulation by national law and, as a rule, it is for the national courts to assess . .
CitedSaunders v The United Kingdom ECHR 17-Dec-1996
(Grand Chamber) The subsequent use against a defendant in a prosecution, of evidence which had been obtained under compulsion in company insolvency procedures was a convention breach of Art 6. Although not specifically mentioned in Article 6 of the . .
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Mr De Castro had been the target of an unwarranted, unauthorised, unsupervised police operation in which undercover officers incited him to supply drugs. He challenged a conviction for trafficking in heroin, based mainly on statements of two police . .
CitedAydin v Turkey ECHR 25-Sep-1997
ECHR Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Preliminary objection rejected (estoppel); Violation of Art. 3; Violation of Art. 13; Not necessary to examine Art. 6-1; No violation of Art. 25-1; Not necessary to . .
CitedJH Rayner (Mincing Lane) Ltd v Department of Trade and Industry HL 1989
An undisclosed principal will not be permitted to claim to be party to a contract if this is contrary to the terms of the contract itself. Thus the provision in the standard form B contract of the London Metal Exchange ‘this contract is made between . .
CitedHarutyunyan v Armenia ECHR 5-Jul-2005
Held: ‘As to the complaint about the coercion and the subsequent use in court of the applicant’s confession statement, the Court considers that it cannot, on the basis of the file, determine the admissibility of this part of the application and that . .
CitedMamatkulov and Askarov v Turkey ECHR 4-Feb-2005
(Grand Chamber) The applicants had resisted extradition to Uzbekistan from Turkey to stand trial on very serious charges, saying that if returned they would be tortured. There was material to show that that was not a fanciful fear. On application . .
CitedRegina v Lyons, Parnes, Ronson, Saunders HL 15-Nov-2002
The defendants had been convicted on evidence obtained from them by inspectors with statutory powers to require answers on pain of conviction. Subsequently the law changed to find such activity an infringement of a defendant’s human rights.
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Brind HL 7-Feb-1991
The Home Secretary had issued directives to the BBC and IBA prohibiting the broadcasting of speech by representatives of proscribed terrorist organisations. The applicant journalists challenged the legality of the directives on the ground that they . .
CitedRamda, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department Admn 27-Jun-2002
The Government of France sought the extradition of Ramda wanted by them for trial in connection with a series of terrorist bombings in France. The applicant resisted extradition to France on the ground that the evidence which would be relied on . .
CitedMontgomery and Coulter v Her Majesty’s Advocate PC 19-Oct-2000
The test of whether a defendant’s common law right to a fair trial had been damaged by pre-trial publicity was similar to the test under the Convention, and also where there was any plea of oppression. The substantial difference is that no balancing . .
CitedIn Re Levin; Regina v Governor of Brixton Prison, Ex parte Levin HL 10-Apr-1997
The applicant had been detained pending extradition to the United States on charges of fraud. He said the evidence would not have been sufficient to justify his committal for trial.
Held: The Francis case did not establish that the 1984 Act . .
CitedGolder v The United Kingdom ECHR 21-Feb-1975
G was a prisoner who was refused permission by the Home Secretary to consult a solicitor with a view to bringing libel proceedings against a prison officer. The court construed article 6 of ECHR, which provides that ‘in the determination of his . .
CitedMcElhinney v Ireland; Al-Adsani v United Kingdom; Fogarty v United Kingdom ECHR 21-Nov-2001
Grand Chamber – The first applicant said he had been injured by a shot fired by a British soldier who had been carried for two miles into the Republic of Ireland, clinging to the applicant’s vehicle following an incident at a checkpoint.
Held: . .
CitedV v The United Kingdom; T v The United Kingdom ECHR 16-Dec-1999
The claimant challenged to the power of the Secretary of State to set a tariff where the sentence was imposed pursuant to section 53(1). The setting of the tariff was found to be a sentencing exercise which failed to comply with Article 6(1) of the . .
CitedSelmouni v France ECHR 28-Jul-1999
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Preliminary objection rejected (non-exhaustion); Violation of Art. 3; Violation of Art. 6-1; Non-pecuniary damage – financial award; Costs and expenses award – . .
CitedProsecutor v Furundzija 1-Apr-1999
(International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) The court described the main features of the law against torture: ‘There exists today universal revulsion against torture: as a USA Court put it in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, ‘the torturer . .
CitedRegina v Bartle and Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Others, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte; Regina v Evans and Similar (No 3) HL 24-Mar-1999
An application to extradite a former head of state for an offence which was not at the time an offence under English law would fail, but could proceed in respect of allegations of acts after that time. No immunity was intended for heads of state. . .
CitedMakanjuola v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis 1990
A plain clothed off duty police officer gained entry to premises by production of his warrant card. He enquired as to the immigration status of the two residents. He told them they were in breach of the immigration regulations, and demanded sexual . .
CitedRegina v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police Ex Parte Wiley; Other Similar HL 14-Jul-1994
Statements made to the police to support a complaint against the police, were not part of the class of statements which could attract public interest immunity, and were therefore liable to disclosure.
Lord Woolf said: ‘The recognition of a new . .
CitedChahal v The United Kingdom ECHR 15-Nov-1996
Proper Reply Opportunity Required on Deportation
(Grand Chamber) The claimant was an Indian citizen who had been granted indefinite leave to remain in this country but whose activities as a Sikh separatist brought him to the notice of the authorities both in India and here. The Home Secretary of . .
CitedLegal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory ICJ 9-Jul-2004
The court explained the consequences of the breach of international law which it found: ‘Given the character and the importance of the rights and obligations involved, the Court is of the view that all States are under an obligation not to recognize . .
CitedKuwait Airways Corporation v Iraqi Airways Company and Others (Nos 4 and 5) HL 16-May-2002
After the invasion of Kuwait, the Iraqi government had dissolved Kuwait airlines, and appropriated several airplanes. Four planes were destroyed by Allied bombing, and 6 more were appropriated again by Iran.
Held: The appeal failed. No claim . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for The Home Department Ex Parte Simms HL 8-Jul-1999
Ban on Prisoners talking to Journalists unlawful
The two prisoners, serving life sentences for murder, had had their appeals rejected. They continued to protest innocence, and sought to bring their campaigns to public attention through the press, having oral interviews with journalists without . .
CitedRegina v Leathem 1861
The court overruled an objection to production of a letter which had been discovered in consequence of an inadmissible statement made by the accused: ‘It matters not how you get it; if you steal it even, it would be admissible.’ . .
CitedRegina v Birmingham Overseers 1861
Cockburn CJ: ‘People were formerly frightened out of their wits about admitting evidence, lest juries should go wrong. In modern times we admit the evidence, and discuss its weight.’ . .
CitedKuruma v The Queen PC 8-Dec-1954
(Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa) The defendant appealed against his conviction for unlawful possession of ammunition, saying that the evidence had been obtained by unlawful means, and should not have been admitted against him.
Held: Lord . .
CitedRex v Lord Rusby 1800
The common law, in being formed from time to time by the wisdom of man it grew and increased from time to time with the wisdom of mankind.
Lord Kenyon said: ‘The common law, though not to be found in the written records of the realm, yet has . .
CitedHurtado v California 1884
Common Law Not Written in Stone
(US Supreme Court) Matthews J spoke of the need for the common law to move forward: ‘as it was the characteristic principle of the common law to draw its inspiration from every fountain of justice, we are not to assume that the sources of its supply . .
CitedPrager v Blatspiel, Stamp and Heacock Ltd 1924
McCardie J spoke of the demand of an expanding society for an expanding common law. An agent must act bona fide in the interests of his principal. . .
CitedRegina v Lichniak HL 25-Nov-2002
The appellants challenged the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment imposed on them on their convictions for murder. They said it was an infringement of their Human Rights, being arbitrary and disproportionate.
Held: The case followed on . .
CitedMcclean, Re an Application for Judicial Review 14 CANI 23-Apr-2004
The appellant was serving a prison term for murder. He was being considered for release under the Good Friday agreement, but on home leave he was again involved in further serious violence. He was recalled and his entitlement to early release was . .
CitedThe Secretary of State for the Home Department v M CA 18-Mar-2004
The applicant had been detained under the appellant’s certificate that he was a suspected terrorist.
Held: The fact that there were suspicions surrounding the detainee did not mean that those suspicions were necessarily reasonable suspicions . .

Cited by:

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The claimants said that they had been tortured by Saudi police when arrested on false charges. They sought damages, and appealed against an order denying jurisdiction over the defendants. They said that the allegation of torture allowed an exception . .
CitedAhmad and Aswat v United States of America Admn 30-Nov-2006
The defendants appealed orders for their extradition. They were suspected of terrorist offences, and feared that instead of facing a trial, they would be placed before a military commission.
Held: The appeals failed. The court had diplomatic . .
CitedRegina v Barot CACD 16-May-2007
The defendant had been convicted of a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, though no violence had been undertaken. He appealed a life sentence with a minimum term of forty years.
Held: The minimum term should be reduced to thirty years. The . .
CitedMohamed, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 1) Admn 21-Aug-2008
The claimant had been detained by the US in Guantanamo Bay suspected of terrorist involvement. He sought to support his defence documents from the respondent which showed that the evidence to be relied on in the US courts had been obtained by . .
CitedZagorski and Baze, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Others Admn 29-Nov-2010
The claimants, in the US awaiting execution for murders, challenged the permitting by the defendant for export of the chemical Sodium Thipental which would be used for their execution. The respondent said that its use in general anaesthesia practice . .
CitedEquality and Human Rights Commission v Prime Minister and Others Admn 3-Oct-2011
The defendant had published a set of guidelines for intelligence officers called upon to detain and interrogate suspects. The defendant said that the guidelines could only be tested against individual real life cases, and that the court should not . .
CitedOsborn v The Parole Board SC 9-Oct-2013
Three prisoners raised questions as to the circumstances in which the Parole Board is required to hold an oral hearing before making an adverse decision. One of the appeals (Osborn) concerned a determinate sentence prisoner who was released on . .
CitedYoussef v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs SC 27-Jan-2016
An Egyptian national, had lived here since 1994. He challenged a decision by the Secretary of State,as a member of the committee of the United Nations Security Council, known as the Resolution 1267 Committee or Sanctions Committee. The committee . .
CitedBelhaj and Another v Straw and Others SC 17-Jan-2017
The claimant alleged complicity by the defendant, (now former) Foreign Secretary, in his mistreatment by the US while held in Libya. He also alleged involvement in his unlawful abduction and removal to Libya, from which had had fled for political . .
CitedShagang Shipping Company Ltd v HNA Group Company Ltd SC 5-Aug-2020
Allegations had been made that a contract had been procured by bribery. The other party said that the admissions of bribery had been extracted by torture and were inadmissible. The CA had decided that the unproven possibility that it was obtained by . .
CitedElgizouli v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 25-Mar-2020
Defendants were to face trial in the US, accused of monstrous crimes. The appellant challenged the release of information to the USA by the respondent to support such prosecutions when the death penalty was a possible outcome of a conviction: ‘The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Evidence, Human Rights, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 07 August 2022; Ref: scu.235838