Habeas corpus

A latin phrase meaning 'produce the body'.

A writ of habeas corpus is used to provide a remedy for a prisoner or a person detained as a mental patient in an institution, who thinks they are being illegally detained.

It is a writ which directs a person to produce someone held in custody before the court, not to decide whether or not they are guilty, but to decide if they being restrained illegally. The writ is issued by a Judge and in theory any detainee can request one. In 1679 The Habeus Corpus Act was passed by Parliament and guaranteed the right in law that no one can be imprisoned unlawfully, its origins are understood to go back much further than this, probably to Anglo-Saxon times.  It is not widely used nowadays as there are statutory protections in place to protect a person's liberty.

The person imprisoned or someone acting on their behalf can file a petition for the writ to be issued. If the court are unable to to find any legal justification for detaining the prisoner then he or she must be freed. 



BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | A brief history of habeas corpus

Secret court proposals threaten habeas corpus safeguards, charity warns

Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus Act 1816

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