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habeas corpus

913 of 1160 nominations


habeas corpus

Is this an icon?


habeas corpus

Its full name is habeas corpus ad subjiciendum – Latin for
"you may hold the body subject to examination" – and although it’s rarely used these days, its principle is seen as a fundamental part of the British legal system. Habeas corpus is a writ, or written court order, that requires a person held by the authorities to be brought before the courts so the legality of their detention can be examined. It started out as a useful tool for king and courts to bring a prisoner to trial, but grew to be a protection for citizens against detention by the state. Its history goes back a long way – the first mention of habeas corpus was in 1305, but it’s likely that its origins go back to Anglo-Saxon times. It was enshrined in law by the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679. Various parliaments have suspended the Act from time to time to detain those thought to be a threat – including fascists, those of German descent and Jewish refugees in the second world war, and Irish republican suspects in the 1970s. Recent anti-terror legislation has been criticised for curtailing the right to habeas corpus, although the government has denied this.


Your comments

It is the essence of English justice.

michael rippingale

It is surely an icon and a gift to our Canadian legal system. I dearly wish the Americans, whose legal system also evolved from British common law, would heed this principle when it comes to detainees at Guantanamo Bay. What a gift it is to us all.
W Brewer

interesting to read about this - sounds like an excellent idea - lets re-instate it.
JP Wright

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My nomination is the garden shed.