UK Liberty

Thousands of terrorists

Posted in detention without charge, law and order by ukliberty on November 5, 2007

screams the BBC, the state propaganda machine.

Coincidentally, the Government is once again picking numbers from the air (or out of a hat, or whatever):

The 28-day limit on holding terror suspects without charge is likely to be doubled by the government.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said the government wanted to extend the limit, “probably” to 56 days.

“Probably” – we might do, we might not. But “probably” – I mean, it just sounds right, doesn’t it? Fits the pattern as well – 7 days doubled to 14, doubled to 28, doubled to 56…

Security Minister Lord West said “about 50” was the figure being talked about – but said safeguards would have to be in place to win over critics.

But veteran Labour MP David Winnick accused the government of “trying to find a number out of a hat”.

Attempts in 2005 to extend pre-charge detention to 90 days ended in Tony Blair’s first Commons defeat as PM.

Instead, MPs voted to extend the period from the then limit of 14 days to 28 days.

See Public Whip.

Mr Blair warned them he hoped they would not “rue the day” [and shook his fist, saying, “I’d have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you kids – ed] and argued the police case for 90 days had been “compelling”.

Well, it consisted of two pages of fantasy, so it was compelling in the same sense as Harry Potter (or so I’m told), by one Andy Hayman, who earlier in the yearmisled the public when he briefed the CRA that the deceased was not one of the four or when he allowed the 6.44 p.m. 22 July press release to state that it was not known if the deceased was one of the four. He could not have believed both inconsistent statements were true”.

Lord Carlile, the government’s terror legislation watchdog, said that it was likely that in a small number of cases more than 28 days would be needed in the future.

“There is a real [as opposed to unreal – ed] risk that an extremely serious terrorism event could take place involving a large number of terrorists in which it would be difficult, if not beyond possible, to carry out all the necessary inquiries within a period of 28 days,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“If that eventuality is reasonably foreseen, and I foresee it [but do you ‘reasonably’ foresee it? – ed], then in my view we should introduce a very highly protected system that would at least enable those most serious cases to be deal with properly.

“I think it’s vital that nobody should be detained for an hour longer than is necessary. But also, nobody should be detained for an hour shorter than is necessary in the over all public interest, subject to the right legal protections.”

But Lord West told the BBC: “The 90 days I have no doubt whatsoever, was far too long.

“I think when it was tried to be done it was done in the most appalling way and we need to make sure we don’t make that sort of mistake again.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he wants political consensus on the issue and has suggested one option would be to double it to 56 days.

Not 55, or 57, but 56. Why?

Lord West told the BBC the complexity of some cases meant that “we really do need more time to look into them”.

Despite, of course, Met Police Chief Sir Ian Blair, and the aforementioned Lord Carlile, admitting there had been no cases so far where 28 days had been needed or would have made a significant difference.

But he admitted he was “not sure” how the government would be able to persuade critics to accept an extension to “around 50 days”.

“We have to show absolutely that we really do need this and we have to show absolutely that we have real safeguards in place, certainly judicial oversight, Parliament would have to be told… and there may be other mechanisms we can do to look after people.”

Earlier Home Office minister Tony McNulty was also asked about extending the limit.

He told Sky News: “I would think up to 56 days probably, but people need to understand what we are asking for, my view is 14 days plus is extraordinary, 28 days plus is even more extraordinary, so there needs to be real substantial danger and circumstances.”

Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives say they will not back any plans to extend the limit unless new evidence comes forward that it is needed.

Questioned recently, shadow home secretary David Davis said there remained “no shred of evidence” to support an extension, which he said could end up curbing civil liberties that “thousands, if not millions, of British citizens have died to defend”.

Worth reading an article by Gareth Peirce, a solicitor who has represented some people suspected of terrorism, particularly:

What is not explained is that at Paddington Green police station, suspects often wait for 48 hours or considerably longer for a first interview confined to name, address and elementary background details. Look at any custody record of any detainee under terrorism legislation, and you will see that for 90% of the time or more no interviews take place.

Earlier this year, Ken Jones, head of the Association of Police Chief Officers, argued for indefinite detention without charge:

We are now arguing for judicially supervised detention for as long as it takes. We are up against the buffers on the 28-day limit. We understand people will be concerned and nervous, but we need to create a system with sufficient judicial checks and balances which holds people, but no longer than a day [more than] necessary.

We need to go there [unlimited detention] and I think that politicians of all parties and the public have great faith in the judiciary to make sure that’s used in the most proportionate way possible.

By the way, if you are arrested on suspicion of having committed murder, you can only be held for four days without charge.


Worth reading this old Register article on the 90 day proposals, particularly page 3, which talks about all the data the police and their support staff pore over, eg:

Vinesh Parmar of the digital crime unit of LGC Ltd made a telling point: “Too often we get requests which say we want everything, which in reality is not a workable request. What we find is that law enforcement agencies need to start understanding the data that is available and to start understanding what is possible evidence or what is intelligence… At the moment a lot of work we do is fishing expeditions where we are basically requested to grab everything out of there and we do not know the case history.”

One Response

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  1. David Mery said, on November 6, 2007 at 12:01 am

    Louise Christian’s letter also on Paddington Green is worth reading in concert with Gareth Peirce’s article to realise that it’s not just the view of one lawyer:,15935,1637178,00.html

    You may also be interested in

    Liberty is having a campaign on this at

    And don’t forget to write to get in touch with your MP if you haven’t already.

    br -d

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