Writ Of Protection

Writ Of Protection
Writ Of Protection
Quick Summary of Writ Of Protection

A writ of protection is a legal document that offers protection to a witness facing potential arrest during a judicial proceeding. It can also provide exemption from arrest in a civil proceeding for a government official serving the Crown for a period of one year and a day. For example, if a witness in a trial is threatened by the defendant or their associates, they can request a writ of protection from the court to ensure their safety and prevent intimidation or harm. Similarly, a government official serving the Crown may be granted protection from arrest in a civil proceeding for a year and a day, regardless of any legal disputes they may be involved in. These examples demonstrate how a writ of protection can be utilised to safeguard the rights and safety of individuals involved in legal proceedings, prevent intimidation or harm to witnesses and protect government officials from undue harassment or arrest.

What is the dictionary definition of Writ Of Protection?
Dictionary Definition of Writ Of Protection

A writ of protection serves as a legal document applicable in two distinct scenarios. The first scenario arises when a witness in a court case fears being apprehended for telling the truth. In such cases, the writ of protection can be employed to safeguard the witness from arrest. The second scenario occurs when a government employee is concerned about being arrested in a civil court case. In this situation, the writ of protection can be utilised to prevent the individual from being arrested for a period of one year and one day.

Full Definition Of Writ Of Protection

A Writ of Protection is a judicial order that provides immunity from arrest or detention to certain individuals under specific circumstances. Historically significant and primarily associated with the realm of English common law, the writ has evolved through various legislative and judicial developments. This legal overview explores the origins, applications, and contemporary relevance of the Writ of Protection within the British legal system.

Historical Context

The concept of the Writ of Protection has deep roots in medieval English law. It was originally designed to protect individuals, particularly those engaged in royal service, from legal actions that could impede their duties. One notable application was in the protection of individuals summoned to Parliament or those involved in litigation on behalf of the Crown. The writ ensured that these individuals could perform their duties without the fear of arrest for civil matters.

Types of Writs of Protection

Parliamentary Privilege

One of the most prominent uses of the Writ of Protection pertains to parliamentary privilege. Members of Parliament (MPs) are afforded certain immunities to enable them to perform their legislative functions without undue interference. Historically, this protection extended to freedom from arrest in civil matters during parliamentary sessions and for a specified period before and after. This privilege is rooted in the principle that MPs should not be hindered in their duty to represent their constituents.

Military Service

Another significant historical use of the Writ of Protection was to safeguard those engaged in military service. Soldiers and officers serving the Crown were granted protection from civil arrest, ensuring that their military duties were not disrupted. This application underscores the importance placed on maintaining the effectiveness and readiness of the military forces.

Legal Framework and Jurisdiction

The Writ of Protection is primarily a creature of common law, but its application and scope have been influenced by various statutes and judicial decisions. The writ’s issuance falls within the purview of superior courts, particularly the High Court of Justice.

Statutory Developments

Several statutes have shaped the modern understanding and application of the Writ of Protection. For instance, the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1770 codified certain aspects of parliamentary privilege, limiting the extent of immunities afforded to MPs. Subsequent legislation, such as the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, has further delineated the boundaries of these protections.

Procedural Aspects

Issuance and Scope

The issuance of a Writ of Protection involves a formal application to a competent court. The applicant must demonstrate that they fall within the category of individuals eligible for such protection, such as MPs during parliamentary sessions or individuals engaged in military service.

The scope of the writ typically covers immunity from arrest for civil matters. However, it does not extend to criminal matters, ensuring that the writ is not abused to shield individuals from accountability for criminal conduct.

Duration and Limitations

The duration of a Writ of Protection is generally limited to the period during which the protected individual is engaged in the relevant activity. For MPs, this includes the duration of parliamentary sessions and a specified period before and after. For military personnel, the protection lasts for the duration of their active service.

Judicial Interpretation

The judiciary has played a crucial role in interpreting the scope and application of the Writ of Protection. Notable cases have helped clarify ambiguities and establish precedents for future reference.

Case Law

  1. Burdett v. Abbot (1811): This landmark case affirmed the principle that parliamentary privilege, including the Writ of Protection, does not extend to criminal matters. The court held that MPs could not claim immunity from arrest for criminal offences, thus maintaining a balance between privilege and accountability.
  2. R v. Chaytor and Others (2010): This case further explored the boundaries of parliamentary privilege in the context of criminal conduct. The Supreme Court ruled that MPs could be prosecuted for criminal activities, such as fraud, even if these activities were connected to their parliamentary functions. This decision underscored the principle that privilege should not be used as a shield for criminal behaviour.

Contemporary Relevance

While the historical applications of the Writ of Protection were more pronounced, its contemporary relevance has diminished in some areas but remains significant in others.

Parliamentary Privilege

Parliamentary privilege continues to be a critical aspect of the British legal system. The Writ of Protection ensures that MPs can perform their legislative duties without undue interference. However, modern interpretations have emphasised the need to balance this privilege with accountability, particularly in cases of criminal conduct.

Military Service

The protection afforded to military personnel has also evolved. While the historical writ provided broad immunity, modern statutory frameworks, such as the Armed Forces Act 2006, now govern the rights and responsibilities of military personnel, including protections from civil arrest during active service.

Comparative Analysis

The Writ of Protection is not unique to the British legal system. Similar protections exist in other common-law jurisdictions, albeit with variations in scope and application.

United States

In the United States, the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution provides similar protections to members of Congress, ensuring they are not impeded in their legislative duties. However, as in the UK, these protections do not extend to criminal matters.


Canadian law also recognises parliamentary privilege, providing protections to Members of Parliament and provincial legislatures. The scope and application are akin to those in the UK, with an emphasis on balancing privilege with accountability.

Criticisms and Debates

The Writ of Protection, particularly in the context of parliamentary privilege, has faced criticisms and sparked debates over the years.

Abuse of Privilege

One major criticism is the potential for abuse. Critics argue that the protections afforded by the writ can be misused to evade accountability, particularly in cases of misconduct by MPs. High-profile scandals have highlighted the need for clearer boundaries and stricter enforcement mechanisms to prevent abuse.

Modern Relevance

Another point of debate is the modern relevance of the Writ of Protection. Some legal scholars argue that the historical justifications for the writ have diminished, given the evolution of statutory protections and the changing nature of parliamentary and military duties. They advocate for a reassessment of the writ’s scope and application to align with contemporary needs and values.

Reform Proposals

In response to criticisms and changing circumstances, several reform proposals have been put forward to modernise the Writ of Protection.

Codification and Clarification

One proposal is the codification and clarification of the writ’s scope and limitations. By enshrining the relevant provisions in clear statutory language, ambiguities can be reduced and the potential for abuse minimised. This approach would provide greater transparency and consistency in the application of the writ.

Strengthening Accountability

Another reform proposal focuses on strengthening accountability mechanisms. This could involve stricter enforcement of limitations on the writ, particularly in cases of alleged misconduct. Enhanced oversight by parliamentary committees and independent bodies could ensure that the writ is used appropriately and that those who abuse it are held accountable.


The Writ of Protection remains a significant but evolving aspect of the British legal system. Its historical roots in safeguarding individuals engaged in parliamentary and military duties have shaped its contemporary application. While the writ continues to provide essential protections, particularly in the context of parliamentary privilege, ongoing debates and criticisms highlight the need for modernisation and reform. By balancing the protection of individuals with the principles of accountability and transparency, the Writ of Protection can continue to serve its purpose in the changing landscape of British law.

Writ Of Protection FAQ'S

A Writ of Protection is a legal document issued by a court that provides temporary protection to an individual from being arrested or detained by law enforcement officers.

You can apply for a Writ of Protection if you believe that your arrest or detention is imminent or if you fear for your safety due to a specific threat.

To apply for a Writ of Protection, you need to file a petition with the appropriate court. The petition should include details about the potential harm or threat you are facing and why you believe you need protection.

No, not everyone can apply for a Writ of Protection. Generally, you need to demonstrate a valid reason for seeking protection, such as being a victim of domestic violence or being a witness in a criminal case.

The duration of a Writ of Protection varies depending on the circumstances and the court’s decision. It can be valid for a few days, weeks, or even months, depending on the level of threat or danger.

Yes, a Writ of Protection can be extended if the court determines that the threat or danger still exists and the extension is necessary to ensure your safety.

Yes, a Writ of Protection can be challenged or revoked if the court finds that the circumstances have changed, and the need for protection is no longer valid.

A Writ of Protection can provide temporary protection from arrest or detention, but it does not grant immunity from criminal charges. If you are suspected of committing a crime, the authorities can still investigate and potentially arrest you.

No, a Writ of Protection does not give you the right to violate any laws. You are still required to abide by all applicable laws and regulations.

No, a Writ of Protection does not exempt you from appearing in court if you are required to do so. It only provides temporary protection from arrest or detention.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

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