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Civil Authorities (Special
Powers) Act – 1922


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This Act was the source of all emergency legislation in Northern Ireland until replaced by the 1973 Act. Passed by Home Rule government.

Contained catch-all provisions, e.g. allowing the “Minster ‘in respect of persons, matters and take all such steps and issue all such orders as may be necessary for preserving the peace and maintaining order, according to and in the execution of this Act and the regulations in it’.” [1]. This authority could be delegated to any police officer.

Additional provisions were made on a number of occasions, sometimes subject to the (ineffective) negative resolution procedure in the Belfast Parliament. None was ever debated in the Parliament. “Easily the most draconian [Act] applied in Great Britain in peacetime since the Great Reform Act of 1832.” [1]


1. K.D. Ewing and C.A. Gearty The Struggle for Civil Liberties: Political Freedom and the Rule of Law in Britain, 1914-1945

OUP, 0198256655
UK: 59.02, USA: $85.00
(Available May 2000)

  Ewing is Professor of Public Law at King's College, London
Gearty is Professor of Human Rights Law at King's College, London

Matthew Robb

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© 23 May 2001

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