28 day detention without charge renewed
The Terrorism Act 2006 allows the police to detain without charge for up to 28 days people arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist. There is a sunset clause in the Act meaning that the maximum period of pre-charge detention reduces to 14 days after one year. The Government has asked Parliament for the second year running to approve secondary legislation to renew, for a further year, the extension to 28 days. The draft Terrorism Act 2006 (Disapplication of Section 25) Order 2008 must be approved by both Houses of Parliament. The House of Commons approved the Order, after debate, on 23 June. The House of Lords will consider the Order on 1 July 2008.
Once again the Government has failed to provide sufficient information to allow us to ascertain whether the power to detain people without charge for up to 28 days is necessary. We welcome the Government’s commitment to provide statistical information to Parliament in the future.
We also regret that the Government did not publish the report of the statutory reviewer of the operation of the Terrorism Act in time to allow the House of Commons and its Committees properly to consider it prior to debate on the draft Order. The reviewer’s report fails to explain how the power to detain suspects for more than 14 days has been used in practice. Parliament needs this information in order to improve decision-making on this issue. We recommend that any future report should include this information and that the reviewer report directly to Parliament.
We recommend that relevant statistical information and the reviewer’s report should be provided to Parliament at least 28 days before debate on these draft Orders to enable meaningful scrutiny of the need for renewal.
No suspect has been held for more than 14 days since the renewal of the power last year. However, the most significant information that Parliament requires to assess the need for this power is whether those charged after being detained for more than 14 days could have been charged any earlier. That information would be obtained by having an independent review of the practice of detaining people for between 14 and 28 days. We strongly recommend that such an independent review be conducted by an appropriate body, such as the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate.