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The Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, was passed during the reign of the restored monarchy of Charles II after the English Civil War. It strengthened the ancient and powerful writ which had been a feature of English Common Law since before Magna Carta. It served to safeguard individual liberty, preventing unlawful or arbitrary imprisonment. Habeas Corpus is Latin for “you may have the body” – subject to legal examination before a court, or a judge.

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When you were kind enough to ask me to speak this evening I was Master of the Rolls and as such ex officio Chairman of the Magna Carta Trust. The Magna Carta Trust is a charitable body devoted to increasing knowledge of and...

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