Harnessing the Power of the Past? Lord Hoffmann and the Belmarsh Detainees Case


  • I would like to thank Mark Aronson, Stephen Bailey, Devika Hovell, and Sangeeta Shah for their comments on an earlier draft.


This article examines styles of judicial reasoning under the Human Rights Act. It uses Lord Hoffmann's short speech in the Belmarsh Detainees case as a springboard from which to explore some important developments. The first part of the article examines the way in which some judges are ‘turning to the local’ by using historical examples as a means of countering powerful lines of argument run by the government in defence of its anti-terrorist policies. Later in the article, I turn to investigate the use of strategic decision-making by judges when applying the HRA. I conclude by asking whether the introduction of the HRA might lead to the development of a strange counterpoint between internationalist and nationalist rhetoric in judicial decision-making.