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Khan v The United Kingdom

26 May 2000
The facts

The Applicant had arrived from Pakistan to Manchester Airport and on the same flight was his cousin. The cousin was found to be in possession of Heroin. The applicant had no drugs found on him but was interviewed. He made no admissions and was released without charge. The Police installed a listening device in the premises which the applicant subsequently visited on the authorisation of the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire. They obtained a tape recording in the course of which the applicant admitted he was a party to the importation of drugs. He was subsequently arrested and tried. He pleaded not guilty.

The Claimant admitted that he had been present when the illicit tape had been made and that his voice was one of those recorded. The Crown admitted that the attachment of the listening devices involved a Civil trespass and had occasioned some damage to property. The Trial Judge ruled the evidence admissible and the Claimant was subsequently convicted.

The Appeal Group went to the House of Lords when The Lords noted two issues before it:-

(i) Was the evidence of the taped conversations admissible at all;

(ii) Whether it should have been excluded by the Trial Judge in the exercise of his discretion or under the power conferred by Section 78 Pace.

The Lords held firstly that there was no right to privacy and that if there were any such right the common law rule of relevant evidence obtained improperly or even unlawfully remained admissible applied to evidence obtained by the use of surveillance devices invading a persons privacy.

The applicant alleged a violation of article 8 (right to respect of a private life and correspondence) and article 6 (entitlement to a fair and public Hearing). The applicant also alleged a breach of article 13 (absence of effective remedy before the British Courts).

The decision

Unanimously that there had been a violation of article 8.

By 6 votes to 1 that there had not been a violation of article 6.

Unanimously that there had been a violation of article 13. The UK was ordered to pay £11,500.00 to the applicant.

In coming to its decision in respect of article 8, the Court noted that it was not disputed that surveillance amounted to an interference of the applicant’s rights but and that the United Kingdom argued that the interference was justified as being in accordance with law necessary in a Democratic Society. The Court found that at the time of the events in the case there was no statutory system to regulate the use of covert listening devices (subsequently provided by the Police Act 1997). The Home Office Guidelines were neither legally binding nor directly accessible to the public. It was not therefore required to decide whether the interference was necessary in the Democratic Society.

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