The Northern Ireland Special Powers Act (1922)

The Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act was passed by the Northern Ireland parliament in April 1922. The Special Powers Act gave the Northern Ireland government, and by extension its police and security forces, extensive powers to deal with threats and disorder in the Six Counties. The Act also included severe punishments, such as flogging, for those arrested under its provisions:

“An Act to empower certain authorities of the Government of Northern Ireland to take steps for preserving the peace and maintaining order in Northern Ireland, and for purposes connected therewith.

The civil authority shall have power, in respect of persons, matters and things within the jurisdiction of the Government of Northern Ireland, to 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… Provided that the ordinary course of law and avocations of life and the enjoyment of property shall be interfered with as little as may be permitted by the exigencies of… this Act…

For the purposes of this Act the civil authority shall be the Minister of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland, but that Minister may delegate, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as he thinks fit, all or any of his powers under this Act to any officer of police…

The Minister of Home Affairs shall have power to make regulations… for making further provision for the preservation of the peace and maintenance of order, and… for varying or revoking any provision of the regulations… It shall be the duty of every person affected by any order issued by the civil authority or other person in pursuance of the regulations to comply with that order, and if he fails to do so he shall be guilty of an offence against the regulations…

If any person does any act of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the preservation of the peace or maintenance of order in Northern Ireland and not specifically provided for in the regulations, he shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence against the regulations.

A person convicted of an offence against the regulations shall be liable to be sentenced to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or to both such imprisonment and fine, and the court may, in addition to any other sentence which may be imposed, order that any goods or articles in respect of which the offence has been committed shall be forfeited.

Where after trial by any court a person is convicted of any crime or offence to which this section applies, the court may, in addition to any other punishment which may lawfully be imposed, order such person, if a male, to be once privately whipped. The provisions… of the Larceny Act, 1916, as to sentences of whipping, shall apply accordingly. The crimes and offences to which this section applies are as follows: –

1. Any crime under the Explosive Substances Act, 1883, as extended by section eighteen of the Firearms Act 1920.

2. Any offence against the Firearms Act, 1920 in relation to the having, keeping or using of firearms.

3. Any offence against the regulations in relation to the carrying, having or keeping of firearms, military arms, ammunition or explosive substances.

4. Any offence against section thirty of the Larceny Act, 1916, (which relates to demanding with menaces, with intent to steal).

5. Arson, whether by common law or by statute, and any offence punishable on indictment under the Malicious Damage Act 1861.”