UK Liberty

In support of indefinite detention without charge

Posted in detention without charge, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on October 16, 2008

Jacqui Frankly Smith, Secretary of What-a-State for the Home Surveillance Department:

Mr Speaker, allow me to make absolutely clear to the House that those who do not agree with the extension of detention without charge by N days take the security of Britain lightly indeed. They may wish to duck the hard questions and tough questions but, actually, Britain still needs to be protected, and Britain still needs to be prepared to deal with the worst, and it has actually been more than a week since our last piece of counter-terrorism legislation.

I have prepared a new Bill to enable the police and prosecutors to do their work – should the worst happen, and should a terrorist plot overtake us and threaten our current investigatory capabilities. The Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) and Measures Unrelated to Terrorism Bill now stands ready to be introduced if and when the need arises. It would enable the Director of Public Prosecutions to apply to the courts to detain and question a terrorist suspect for up to N days. Individuals could be detained only when that was authorised by a judge specially appointed by the Home Secretary, and hearings would be in secret with no opportunity for the suspect to challenge his detention.

There may be no need for N days now, indeed there is no need for 28 days at present but, in order for the police and prosecutors to be able to do their job, there may one day come circumstances where someone may need to be investigated for longer than N days before they can be charged, and anyone against this is, actually, giving the terrorists a licence to kill.

We cannot tell you what these circumstances are but, frankly, the police would like more time. Also, there are choke-points and bottle-necks, but not where you would like, particularly in terms of gathering intelligence and evidence over multiple jurisdictions, which cannot be improved by simply increasing resources, and, actually, opponents would feel pretty terrible if a suspect was released on the 28th day and went on to blow up a bus on the 29th, because actually the police would just give up on the case and stop watching him otherwise.

Among the fallacious arguments of the Opposition parties who, frankly, are prepared to ignore the terrorist threat for fear of taking a tough but necessary decision, is that the longest period of detention without charge in any comparable democracy is 12 days, in Australia, actually.  But let me point out instead the case of France, with its investigating magistrates, which enable them, actully, in serious cases of terrorism, effectively to hold people for longer than 28 days before they reach the equivalent of a charge, and other countries where people can actually be held for any length of time before being boiled alive.  Allow me to point out, Mr Speaker, that it is very difficult for terrorists to commit an atrocity after having been driven mad, particularly if they have been boiled alive. [hear here.]

Opponents, who believe it is enough to simply cross your fingers and hope for the best, also raise concerns about the human rights and mental health of suspects held for over 14 days in Paddington Green police station – indeed, no-one in their right mind would volunteer to stay there [laughter]. Police may well have had to compensate suspects who suffered permanent trauma; detainees may halt their studies, lose their jobs and even attempt suicide but, actually, what about the human rights of victims and the potential victims of some future atrocity, particularly those who are dead and therefore no longer enjoy their human rights? And, actually, there is evidence that the longer a suspect is held, the more likely he is to confess to a crime.  Surely that, on its own, is sufficient justification for N days?

I commend my statement to the House.

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