Azara Blog: Committee of MPs releases report on terror suspect detention limit

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Date published: 2006/07/03

The BBC says:

The 28-day limit for police to hold terror suspects without charge may well need to be extended, an influential committee of MPs says.

But the Home Affairs Committee report warns any such move would require extra safeguards to be put in place.

It attacks the government for the way it put its argument for a 90-day limit, a plan thrown out by Labour rebels.

Committee chairman John Denham says evidence leading to detention without charge needs to be "compelling".
Ministers have made clear they feel there is still a need to go further than the 28-day compromise, which was agreed in November after Tony Blair suffered his first Commons defeat as prime minister.

In its report, the committee says no recent cases provide justification for a longer detention period.

But it adds: "The growing number of cases and the increase in suspects monitored by the police and security services make it entirely possible, and perhaps increasingly likely, that there will be cases that do provide that justification.

"We believe, therefore, that the 28-day limit may well prove inadequate in the future."
[It] is highly critical of the roles played by the police and the government in the attempt to set a 90-day limit.

"On such a major issue, with very significant human rights implications, we would have expected the case made by the police to have been better developed."

The report adds that it was "unsatisfactory" that the prime minister and home secretary had not "critically challenged" the police's advice to assure themselves of the case that was being made.

It says a "lack of care" in presenting the case, rather than the breakdown of political consensus blamed by then Home Secretary Charles Clarke, was the main reason for the difficulties.

The report pretty much makes the obvious point that Blair and Clarke were just playing petty politics rather than being serious, with their push for 90 days. The "lack of care" in presenting the case was not accidental, it was on purpose, since there was really no case. The line in the report that "the 28-day limit may well prove inadequate in the future" is trite and seems to be a sop to ministers so that they can claim they were "right" all along.

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