Friday, December 07, 2007

UK Government Wants To Detain Terrorism Suspects For Up To 42 Days

This is a follow-up to the November 15, 2007 Library Boy post entitled Comparative Study: How Long Can Terrorist Suspects Be Held Without Charge?.

That post described a study by the UK civil liberties group Liberty that looked at the maximum period for which terrorist suspects can be held without charge in 15 countries, including Canada. The study concluded that British practice exceeds that of other democratic nations.

Yesterday, the legal news site JURIST reported that the UK government proposes 42-day detention without charge limit for terror suspects, up from the current maximum of 28 days.

More background:
  • Smith plays the numbers game (BBC): "If you've ever read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy you might remember the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. It was 42. We never found out what the question was, of course. That was the joke. It took a supercomputer designed by a race of pan dimensional aliens seven-and-a-half million years to come up with the answer. In trying to fix a time limit for holding a terror suspect without charge, it took Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, rather less time to come up with hers."
  • Smith faces fight to raise detention limit in terror cases (The Independent): "Jacqui Smith faces a desperate struggle to avoid defeat in Parliament over new plans to lock up terrorist suspects without charge for up to 42 days. The Home Secretary provoked a civil liberties storm and anger among opposition parties as she announced a fresh move to increase the current 28-day maximum. Ms. Smith has backed off from earlier proposals for a 56-day limit and promised the Government would only ask for 42-day detention in extreme circumstances. But parliamentary opposition began building against the controversial move immediately after its announcement. The Government will face a knife-edge vote on the plans in the Commons and looks likely to be defeated in the Lords. The votes are expected to take place within two months (...) In a further sign of the political pressure she faces, Ms. Smith has been summoned back before the Labour-controlled Commons Home Affairs Select Committee to justify the move. It has already made clear its objection to increasing the 28-day limit after a majority of witnesses to the committee – including the Director of Public Prosecutions – opposed any extension."
  • Ministers struggle as plan to increase detention limit to 42 days attracts new round of criticism (The Guardian): "The government's attempt to extend the period for which terror suspects can be detained without charge appeared to be foundering last night as its many critics remained bitterly opposed (...) Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, accused the home secretary of wasting 'so much goodwill and months of so-called consensus building on national security'. Provisions for parliamentary oversight were weak, and for judicial oversight inadequate. But the proposals were welcomed by Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers. He said: 'There is a pressing need to consider now the best way of responding to cases likely to arise in the future where the complexities of gathering evidence mean the current limit of 28 days would prove insufficient'."
  • Rebels unmoved by limit for terror detentions (The Telegraph): "Labour MPs who rebelled against a previous move for a 90-day limit signalled that they would stage another revolt. Even the police - angered by a decision to award their pay rise in stages - came out against the move (...) Miss Smith's proposal would give MPs a role in any decision to let police hold suspects for more than 28 days. She said 42 days would be needed only in 'exceptional circumstances' and there would be a ''triple lock' safe-guard. Police and prosecutors, the judiciary and Parliament would all have to agree the need for going beyond 28 days. If the 42-day power was triggered, approval would have to be sought from Parliament within 30 days. The extra time would then be available for a 60-day period before lapsing (...) Labour MPs who blocked the 90-day plan remained sceptical. David Winnick, a member of the home affairs select committee, said: 'No evidence has been produced in my view - and in the view of a good number of other people - that any extension is necessary' (...) Ministers claim support from senior police officers but Jan Berry, the leader of the rank and file Police Federation, said the measure 'further politicises the independence and impartiality of the criminal justice system'."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:08 pm

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