UK Liberty

Counter-terrorism Bill was published last week.

Posted in detention without charge, law and order by ukliberty on January 30, 2008

And yes they are still going for 42 day detention without charge, even though everyone now admits there is no evidence for needing it.

The Independent has a good summary:

  • The Home Secretary will be able to immediately extend the limit to 42 days if a joint report by a chief constable and the Director of Public Prosecutions backs the move;
  • The Commons and the Lords will have to approve the extension within 30 days;
  • The new limit will only be available to police for two months unless it is renewed;
  • Parliament could be recalled from summer recess if a vote was required on an extension;
  • Individual detentions over 28 days would need to be approved by a judge at least every seven days.

However, the way the proposed system is set up could mean suspects being held for 42 days even if Parliament eventually refused permission.

Such a scenario could arise if the Home Secretary only decided to extend the limit towards the end of the existing 28 day slot, because Parliament is only required to vote within 30 days.

In that time, a suspect could already have been charged or released without charge.

Note that the bill explicitly says Parliament will not be given “any material that might prejudice the prosecution of any person”, as you would hope – but then how can Parliament claim to be informed on whether or not the decision to detain someone was the right one?

Politicians cannot be said to be neutral, independent decision-makers.  An informed and neutral decision-maker is a prerequisite of fair proceedings.

In addition I have been reminded that it is a constitutional obscenity to erase the line between Parliament and the courts – it is for Parliament to make the law, not rule on it.  That is a job for the courts.  We do not have a full realisation of the separation of powers in this nation, but let’s not make it worse.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith vomited some wordsalad:

It won’t be hypothetical if and when it occurs. We are not legislating now on the basis that we are bringing it in now for something that might happen in the future; we are bringing it in now for something that might happen in the future; we are bringing in a position for if it becomes unhypothetical. If, unfortunately I and many other experts are right and we do need it in the future it is in place.

And added a false dichotomy:

We face a choice here. We can either sit on our hands, failing to recognise where there is a broad consensus that this is a risk that is growing that we might well face in the future, we can risk that happening, we can risk having to legislate in an emergency in the future, we can risk, as some people believe we should do, having to declare a national emergency in order to be able to do it, or we can, as we are proposing, legislate now – with the discussion that will be put in Parliament on the safeguards and on the circumstances in which it would be used – and have that available in the future.  That seems to me to be a very sensible way forward.

And one of her minions, Tony McNutty, dressed it with this:

As an extreme example, imagine two or three 9/11s. Imagine two 7/7s. Given the evidence we’ve got and the nature of plots so far disrupted, such scenarios aren’t fanciful.  We hope never to utilise this power. But given all we know, we need to take it for extreme circumstances.

Well, gee – imagine the UK public grabbed their hempen and went looking for McNutty and co.  As there is precedent for this, such a scenario isn’t fanciful.  We should therefore outlaw the carrying of ropes near lampposts.

Of course that is not the only power in the Bill, have a read.

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