UK Liberty

JCHR – still no case for 42 day detention without charge

Posted in detention without charge, law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on May 17, 2008

On Wednesday the Joint Committee on Human Rights published its Counter-Terrorism Policy and Human Rights (Tenth Report): Counter-Terrorism Bill.

The Committee seems annoyed that the Government continues to fail to make a case for extending the period of pre-charge detention, that the Government failed to substantively respond to an earlier JHCR report on the issue, and that the Government has dismissed “an alternative, human-rights compliant package” and other recommendations.

Worth quoting verbatim one particular section:

In our view, while it would clearly be possible for there to be a parliamentary debate of some kind on the Home Secretary’s statement to Parliament about having made the 42 day limit available, it would not be possible for that debate to go into the details of the justification for extending the time limit for the purposes of the particular, ongoing investigation. The nature of that decision requires justification by reference to the particular circumstances of the investigation of the individual suspects.

The Home Secretary would tell Parliament that she has been advised by the police and the CPS that more time is required in order to investigate the individual suspects who are already being detained. In order for Parliament meaningfully to debate the correctness of that assertion, it will be necessary to refer to the detailed factual circumstances of the individual suspects, but such reference will be impossible because, as the DPP made clear in his evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, it might prejudice subsequent prosecutions.

In our view, the fundamental flaw in the Government’s proposal therefore remains: it confuses parliamentary and judicial functions by attempting to give to Parliament what is unavoidably a judicial function, namely the decision about whether it is justifiable to detain individual suspects for longer.

In our view, however, even if the Bill were amended in this way, it would not meet the objection above that any parliamentary debate will be so circumscribed by the need to avoid prejudicing fair trials as to be a virtually meaningless safeguard against wrongful exercise of the power.

The Government also got its own case wrong:

First, the Government asserts that “no challenge has ever been made” on grounds of incompatibility with Article 5 where suspects have been held under the existing maximum period of 28 days “and if there was even an arguable case you would expect there to have been such a challenge.”

In other words, the Government is inviting Parliament to infer from the fact that there have not been any Article 5 challenges under the existing law that there is not even an arguable case that the regime of extended pre-charge detention is in breach of Article 5. In fact, there has been such a challenge, by one of the first people to have their pre-charge detention extended beyond 14 days, a suspect [Nabeel Hussain] arrested in connection with the alleged Heathrow bomb plot in August 2006.

A five billion pound scheme to allow us to carry one bit of paper instead of two

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on May 17, 2008

[hat-tip NO2ID forum]

Meg Hillier in Reading:

“It’s also incredibly convenient for people. Instead of carrying all that raft of documents that people have to have – you know – that proof of your address and your ID, you can have one card or your passport and either of those documents will do to prove your identity.”

Yes, I am desperate to save myself from carrying two bits of paper once a year to a bank.

High Court dismisses Commons appeal against release of MPs’ expenses

The Guardian (also the Times):

The Commons Speaker, Michael Martin, today [Friday 16 May] lost a high court battle to prevent the disclosure of the details of second-home expenses claimed by 14 prominent MPs.

Today’s ruling, given by Sir Igor Judge, the president of the Queen’s bench division, Lord Justice Latham and Mr Justice Blake, will increase pressure on Martin, who has been criticised for his decision to block the publication of the information.

The Commons authorities challenged the Information Tribunal’s demand that a detailed breakdown of MPs’ additional costs allowances (ACAs) had to be provided under the Freedom of Information Act.

The allowances cover the expenditure incurred when an MP is away from home on parliamentary duties, including the cost of running second homes and general household bills.

The judgement is on Bailii.

Some highlights:

The carefully structured decision of the Tribunal covers 28 pages of closely reasoned judgment. It provides a careful analysis of the relevant facts, with appropriate findings where the facts were in dispute or potentially controversial. … Seen in relation to the public interest that public money should be, and be seen to be properly spent, the Tribunal found that the ACA [additional costs allowance] system was deeply unsatisfactory, and its shortcomings both in terms of transparency and accountability were acute.

We have no doubt that the public interest is at stake. We are not here dealing with idle gossip, or public curiosity about what in truth are trivialities. The expenditure of public money through the payment of MPs’ salaries and allowances is a matter of direct and reasonable interest to taxpayers. They are obliged to pay their taxes at whatever level and on whatever basis the legislature may decide, in part at least to fund the legislative process. Their interest is reinforced by the absence of a coherent system for the exercise of control over and the lack of a clear understanding of the arrangements which govern the payment of ACA. Although the relevant rules are made by the House itself, questions whether the payments have in fact been made within the rules, and even when made within them, whether the rules are appropriate in contemporary society, have a wide resonance throughout the body politic. In the end they bear on public confidence in the operation of our democratic system at its very pinnacle, the House of Commons itself. The nature of the legitimate public interest engaged by these applications is obvious.

The principal ground of appeal asserts that the Tribunal misdirected itself by failing to recognise the existence of and therefore give appropriate weight to the reasonable expectations of MPs about precisely how information about the ACA claims would be made available to the public.

In our judgment the submission that the Tribunal failed to address the arguments advanced to it in the context of the reasonable expectation of MPs is unrealistic. The judgment speaks for itself. The Tribunal expressly recorded the argument, and expressly rejected it. It did so by reference to the facts, including the publication scheme itself and the relevant letters. We can find no misdirection or other error of law which would justify interfering with the decision of the Tribunal.

[in relation to disclosure of addresses] None of this is intended to suggest that the disclosure of an individual’s private address under FOIA does not require justification. In the present case, however, there was a legitimate public interest well capable of providing such justification. Thus, for example, there is evidence which suggests that one MP claimed ACA for a property which did not exist, and yet further evidence may demonstrate that on occasions MPs claiming ACA were letting out the accommodation procured from the ACA allowance.

Crewe and Nantwich Labour campaign xenophobic and dishonest

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on May 17, 2008

The Guardian:

The Labour campaign [for Crewe and Nantwich], under the command of the Birmingham MP Steve McCabe, has rebranded its chief adversary “Tory Boy Timpson”, and is going for him with an eye-popping ferocity. Volunteers have been stalking him dressed in top hat and tails; now, there comes a very nasty leaflet titled “Tory candidate application form”, replete with questions and ticked boxes. Number one is, “Do you live in a big mansion house?” Question two is – and, really, the sense of humour on display is quite something – “Do you think that regeneration is adding a new wing to your mansion?” The third reads: “Have you and your Tory mates on the council been soft on yobs and failed to make our streets safer?” But the best is saved for question four, at which point pantomimic class hatred is suspended and we get something altogether more sinister. “Do you,” it asks, “oppose making foreign nationals carry an ID card?”

Though the Tories seem to be hardly mentioning it, the presence of immigration in the campaign isn’t a surprise. What’s unsettling is the language used by Labour, and the implication of a tough measure to be wrought on uncooperative outsiders.

And of course the implication that all Johnny Foreigners will be issued with ID cards, when we should all know by now that it will be just non-EEA nationals.