Friday, December 28, 2007

Proposals to extend detention without trial run into trouble

I wrote a few weeks ago that it would only take a small number of Labour MPs who had as much of amind of their own as the average supermarket trolley to kill the badly thought out proposals to extend detention without trial beyond 28 days.

Judging by reports in "The Independent" and other newspapers there are indeed more than the required 34 Labour MPs who are threatening to show that degree of independence. ("The Independent" says that there are at least 38 who say that they intend to vote against the proposals.)

The Director of Public Prosecutions is one of those who are arguing that there is no evidence to justify the need to increase the maximum period of detention without charge beyond 28 days. In his view the present 28 day limit is working and he described any risk that a longer limit might be needed as "theoretical."

No clear evidence has been produced by the government that demonstrates why either 42 days or any other period of extended detention beyond 28 days is a more appropriate figure.

The last time Britain responded to a terrorist threat by locking up for more than a month people against whom there was not yet sufficient evidence to bring a charge, was 30 years ago. That was "internment" in Northern Ireland. It was the best recruiting sergeant that the IRA ever had. Let's not make the same mistake again.

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