Murray v Ministry of Defence

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Keith of Kinkel,Lord Templeman,Lord Griffiths,Lord Oliver of Aylmerton,Lord Jauncey of Tullychettle
Judgment Date25 May 1988
Judgment citation (vLex)[1988] UKHL J0525-1
CourtHouse of Lords
Date25 May 1988
Murray (A.P.)
Ministry of Defence
(Respondents) (Northern Ireland)

[1988] UKHL J0525-1

Lord Keith of Kinkel

Lord Templeman

Lord Griffiths

Lord Oliver of Aylmerton

Lord Jauncey of Tullychettle

House of Lords

Lord Keith of Kinkel

My Lords,


I have had the opportunity of considering in draft the speech to be delivered by my noble and learned friend Lord Griffiths. I agree with it, and for the reasons he gives would dismiss the appeal.

Lord Templeman

My Lords,


I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech prepared by my noble and learned friend Lord Griffiths and, for the reasons he gives, I too would dismiss the appeal.

Lord Griffiths

My Lords,


The plaintiff, Mrs. Margaret Murray, a resident of Andersonstown, Belfast, sued the Ministry of Defence for false imprisonment by the army. Her claim was dismissed by Murray J. and the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland, and she now appeals to your Lordships' House by leave of the Court of Appeal. She also appealed to the Court of Appeal from the refusal of Murray J. to award her damages for trespass to the person arising out of a "pat search" of her clothing whilst she was in custody. The Court of Appeal allowed her appeal in this respect and awarded her £250 damages. There is no appeal against this finding of the Court of Appeal and it would therefore be inappropriate to express any view on the correctness or otherwise of that part of the judgment of the Court of Appeal and I refer to it only as an incident in the history of these proceedings.


Although I shall have to deal with the facts of the plaintiff's arrest and detention in some detail, the appeal raises the correctness of the procedures laid down and followed by the army in Northern Ireland when they purport to exercise the power of arrest, detention and search, contained in section 14 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978, which provides:

"(1) A member of Her Majesty's forces on duty may arrest without warrant, and detain for not more than four hours, a person whom he suspects of committing, having committed or being about to commit any offence. (2) A person effecting an arrest under this section complies with any rule of law requiring him to state the ground of arrest if he states that he is effecting the arrest as a member of Her Majesty's forces. (3) For the purpose of arresting a person under this section a member of Her Majesty's forces may enter and search any premises or other place — ( a) where that person is, or ( b) if that person is suspected of being a terrorist or having committed an offence involving the use or possession of an explosive, explosive substance or firearm, where that person is suspected of being."


I turn now to the facts. On 22 June 1982, two of the plaintiff's brothers, Colum and Eamonn Mayne, were convicted of arms offences in the United States of America connected with the purchase of weapons for the I.R.A., and they received sentences of three years' and two years' imprisonment respectively.


At about 6.30 a.m. on 26 July 1982, Corporal Davies, a member of the Women's Royal Army Corps, serving with 181 Provos Regiment, attended an army briefing at which she was told that the plaintiff was suspected of involvement in the collection of money for purchase of arms for the I.R.A. in the United States, an offence under section 21 of the Act of 1978 and section 10 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976. Corporal Davies was instructed to go with a number of armed soldiers to the plaintiff's house, 50, Stewartson Park, Andersonstown, and to arrest the plaintiff and bring her to the army screening centre at Springfield Road.


Acting on these orders, Corporal Davies, who was unarmed, and five armed soldiers, arrived outside the plaintiff's house in a Land Rover at 7.00 a.m. The driver stayed with the Land Rover in front of the house, one of the soldiers went round to the back of the house, and the remaining three soldiers and Corporal Davies went to the front door and rang the bell. The door was opened by the plaintiff who was only partly dressed. The three armed soldiers and Corporal Davies immediately entered the house. Corporal Davies asked the plaintiff if she was Mrs. Margaret Murray and she replied: "Yes."


Corporal Davies asked the plaintiff to get dressed and she and the soldiers then followed the procedure in which they had been instructed when effecting an arrest in a private house. They entered every room in the house and asked all the occupants to assemble in one room. Corporal Davies went upstairs and told the children, three girls and a boy, to get up and go down to the living room, and the plaintiff's husband was also asked to go to the living room. Corporal Davies stayed with the plaintiff upstairs whilst she was getting dressed. According to the plaintiff, she asked at this stage if she was being arrested, and received no answer. Corporal Davies was not cross-examined about this, but it seems likely that if the plaintiff had asked the question Corporal Davies would not have replied, as her instructions were to make the arrest just before they left the house.


At some stage, Corporal Davies remembers the plaintiff taking two tablets which she said she needed because she was diabetic. One of the soldiers downstairs stood in the hallway near the front door, and the other two looked into the other rooms on the ground floor and took notes as to their contents including the pattern of the wallpaper. There was, however, no evidence and no suggestion that they carried out any search of the contents of the house.


After the plaintiff had dressed and come downstairs, Corporal Davies called one of the soldiers to be a witness, and said to the plaintiff: "As a member of Her Majesty's forces I arrest you." The plaintiff, who is not unversed in these matters, asked: "Under what section?" Corporal Davies did not reply; the plaintiff repeated the question, and Corporal Davies said: "Section 14." Corporal Davies, the plaintiff and the soldiers then left the house and were all driven in the Land Rover to Springfield Road. It was not suggested on behalf of the plaintiff that Corporal Davies or any of the soldiers behaved in a bullying or aggressive manner towards her or any members of her household or that there was any undue delay before the plaintiff left the house with them after she had dressed.


After the Land Rover had been parked in the yard at Springfield Road, the plaintiff was asked to wait in the back of the Land Rover while Corporal Davies reported their arrival. She was then asked by Corporal Davies to get out of the Land Rover and stand facing the wall of the yard. The plaintiff refused to face the wall and she and Corporal Davies stood in the yard for a few minutes until Sergeant Brothers came from an army building known as the Screening Centre and asked the plaintiff her name, address and date of birth. The plaintiff only gave her name. She was then escorted into the building and asked to sit for a short time in a small cubicle. At 8.05 a.m. she was taken before Sergeant Brothers who attempted to obtain answers from her that would enable him to complete a form entitled "Screening Pro Forma — Part One (To be completed by Reception Controller)." This short form records personal details, arrest details, a screening procedure record and appearance. The only information required from the plaintiff related to her personal details. She refused to answer any questions save to give her name and the entire interview took only four minutes, ending at 8.09 a.m. when she was taken by Corporal Davies to the medical orderly. She was asked by the medical orderly if she suffered from any illness but, again, the plaintiff refused to answer any questions.


At 8.20 a.m. the plaintiff was taken to an interview room and questioned by a soldier in civilian clothes in the presence of Corporal Davies. The plaintiff maintained a totally uncooperative attitude, refusing to answer any of the interviewer's questions. On three occasions the interview was interrupted when the plaintiff asked to go to the lavatory, to which she was escorted by Corporal Davies. The interview ended at 9.35 a.m. The plaintiff was taken once more to the medical orderly and asked if she had any complaints about her treatment which she refused to answer. She declined the offer of transport to return her to her house and was escorted to the gates of the centre by Corporal Davies and released at 9.45 a.m.


At the trial before Murray J., the main thrust of her complaint was that the whole operation carried out by the army was unlawful from beginning to end. It was submitted that the plaintiff had been arrested and questioned not because of any suspicion that she had been involved in collecting money to buy arms for the I.R.A. but as part of an intelligence-gathering operation carried out by the army in which innocent persons, unsuspected of any offence, were brought in for questioning to gather information that might be useful against others suspected of I.R.A. activities. This primary attack failed because the judge held that he was satisfied that Corporal Davies was an entirely honest witness and that after her briefing she did suspect the plaintiff of the offences involved in collecting money for the I.R.A., and thus had the limited power of arrest and detention conferred on members of the armed forces by section 14 of the Act of 1978. No appeal is pursued before your Lordships in respect of this finding of the judge.


However, accepting that the army had grounds for arresting and detaining the plaintiff, it is submitted that the procedures they adopted were unlawful in two respects. Firstly, it is said that the plaintiff should have been told that she was under arrest as soon as her identity was established when she opened the door at 7.00 a.m. and the failure...

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