UK Liberty

More dishonesty from Government in detention comparison argument

Posted in detention without charge, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 11, 2008

The BBC:

A row has broken out between ministers and civil liberties groups over how Britain compares with other countries on pre-charge detention times.

The Home Office says it is not possible to make a proper comparison because each country’s legal system differs.

But the civil liberties groups say it is possible – and the UK is among the worst in the world for imprisoning people without charge.

It comes as ministers try to extend the pre-charge detention period to 42 days.

The dispute began last year when Liberty published a table which it said proved that the existing 28-day time limit in the UK for pre-charge detention “far exceeded” equivalent limits in other comparable democracies.

A comparison between the UK and 14 other countries showed Australia following the UK with a time limit of just 12 days. Turkey comes third with 7.5 days and Ireland fourth, with a one-week limit on holding suspects without charge.

In its report Liberty said: “Any extension to pre-charge detention would put the UK further out of line with comparable democracies around the world.”

On Wednesday the Home Office issued a rebuttal in the form of a letter from the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. In it, Ms Smith accused Liberty’s international comparisons of being “misleading“.

She said: “Because there is such variety between criminal justice systems in different countries… it is simply not the case of comparing like with like.

“Even organisations like Justice accept that such comparisons are wrong.”

But when Justice – a respected human rights organisation made up of senior lawyers and judges – learnt of the letter, they immediately demanded a retraction.

And the group joined Liberty in insisting that the UK had the worst record amongst democratic countries for detaining people without charging them.

In a statement the group accused the home secretary of “wrongly claiming” that Justice disputed Liberty’s comparisons between periods of detention in the UK and other countries.

Justice director of human rights policy Eric Metcalfe said: “Unfortunately for the home secretary, the international comparisons are clear.

The UK already has the longest period of pre-charge detention of any western democracy, and 42 days would push it even further ahead.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said ministers would need to consider Justice’s statement further before making a comment.

Liberty said the Home Office had also “muddied the waters” by claiming that other countries – such as France and Italy – had such different legal systems that comparisons about pre-charge detention times were invalid.

Liberty insisted its comparisons were valid, and said it had the support of respected experts both in the UK and abroad to back its research – including France’s chief counter terrorism prosecutor, Anne Kostomaroff.

In a letter to Liberty Ms Kostomaroff stated: “Is the analysis of the French law in… Liberty’s attached report ‘Terrorism Pre-Charge Detention: Comparative Law Study’ accurate?

“Yes it is.”

Jago Russell, who wrote the report for Liberty, said: “The conclusions of our study are no doubt embarrassing reading for a government insistent on pushing for 42 days detention.

“When so many other countries manage with pre-charge detention periods of less than a week how can the UK need to hold people for over a month?”

The Home Office said it would need to see Ms Kostomaroff’s letter in full before making any statement.

God forbid accepting you’re wrong, eh?


Government wins 42 days by nine votes

Posted in detention without charge, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 11, 2008

Ayes 315
Nos 306

Now it goes to the Lords.

Worth noting that 9 DUP MPs voted with the Government… in other words the Government could not persuade enough of its own party to vote for it.


Posted in accountability, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 11, 2008

The BBC:

Standards watchdog Sir Christopher Kelly says he is “baffled” as to why MPs thought it appropriate to carry out a review of their expenses themselves.

Did the Government sex up the 42 day dossier?

Posted in detention without charge, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 11, 2008

More dishonesty from the Government. What the hell is wrong with these people?


Human rights group Liberty today received startling information relating to Ministerial claims about the use of the existing pre-charge detention limit for terror suspects. This information undermines repeated claims that the authorities have been “up against the buffers” with the current 28 day detention period.

Operation Overt, following the failed plot at Heathrow in August 2006, has been cited as one of the most complex counter-terrorism investigations in British history. As such, it has been repeatedly presented by the Government as critical evidence in support of an extension of pre-charge detention beyond 28 days.

Pursuant to Operation Overt, 24 people were arrested on 10 August 2006 and 17 were subsequently charged. All of those charged with conspiracy to murder were charged within 21 days. Of the five suspects held for 27 to 28 days, three were released without charge or further suspicion. Two were charged with other terrorism offences.

It has been consistently asserted (in relation to the two charged at the end of the 28 day period) that the evidence only came to light at the end of that period (see Notes to Editors).

Notwithstanding the sub-judice rule, the Home Secretary, other Government Ministers, the Head of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Metropolitan Police have all given evidence or commented publicly on this point. This has been central to the argument that the police are ‘up against the buffers’ under the existing 28 day limit.

However, that information is inaccurate and misleading. The following corrections have now been confirmed by a lawyer working on the case:

The evidence relied upon to charge the two suspects, at the end of the 28 day period, was obtained by the police within four and 12 days respectively.

During the last 15 days of detention, interviewing of both suspects tailed off dramatically with average interview periods of only 10 and 16 minutes per day respectively.

None of the evidence relied upon was encrypted, required forensic analysis or contingent upon foreign intelligence.

Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti said:

“I am shocked, angry and more than a little disappointed to find Ministers have repeatedly sexed up the operational pressures on the existing 28 day detention limit. Just last week in front of millions of television viewers, a senior Cabinet Minister told me that the full 28 days had been required for the gathering of evidence in three cases. Now I learn that wasn’t true. I hope that the similarities with the infamous Iraq vote will not be lost on Labour MPs tomorrow.”

No information may be disclosed that might identify the individuals concerned. The information revealed here does not prejudice future proceedings as it only relates to the time that evidence became available, not the quality of evidence or guilt or innocence of those awaiting trial.