Terror Detention To Be Reviewed
Quote:Home Secretary John Reid has outlined a raft of proposals to toughen counter terror laws - including reviewing the 28-day limit on pre-charge detention.
He said he wanted cross-party agreement on the measures, which also include a law change to allow terrorist suspects to be questioned after being charged.
Plans also include a sex offender-style terrorist register, and a review into courts using intercept evidence.
But MPs were told "stop and question" powers were not among current plans.
The measures are in a three-page consultation document rather than a draft bill because Mr Reid said he wanted to get cross-party support before announcing more concrete measures in a counter-terrorism bill later this year.
He said he personally believed, as did Prime Minister Tony Blair and the next prime minister Gordon Brown, that 28-day detention in terrorist cases was not enough.
He did not say whether there would be a fresh attempt to extend the limit as far as 90 days, which was the issue that led to Mr Blair's first Commons defeat as prime minister.
But he said action was needed given that suspects had "unconstrained intent... to murder people in their thousands, or potentially, millions".
"I'm not being definite, but one way might be to legislate now to extend the current limit but to make it clear that there would extra further judicial and Parliamentary oversight if such measures were ever implemented."
He said he would encourage opposition parties to contribute further ideas and said police, civil liberty groups, the judiciary and community groups would also be consulted.
The government's independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, Lib Dem peer Lord Carlile, reiterated his support for extending detention without charge beyond 28 days.
"I can imagine that there may well come to be cases - and I'm not saying that there have been any yet - in which the need to protect evidence, to discover what the evidence is, to de-encrypt computers, to find people may not be achieved within 28 days.
Mr Reid, who will step down as home secretary in less than three weeks when Tony Blair leaves Downing Street, came under fire last month over terror suspects absconding when under control orders.
He blamed courts and opposition parties for scuppering previous moves to toughen the control orders regime.
Mr Reid told MPs he was now proposing new measures to toughen control orders relating to fingerprinting, DNA and police powers of entry.
But he appeared to talk down the possibility of opting out of parts of European human rights laws, favouring instead an overall rethink of them.
'Other serious crimes'
This was needed because at the time they were drafted, only nation states could inflict the level of casualties that one individual could now, he said.
Next week, MPs will debate an amendment to a bill, approved by the House of Lords, which would allow telephone intercept evidence to be used in court.
Mr Reid said a committee of Privy councillors would review the ban on such evidence, but he had not been persuaded that it should be allowed.
Lord Carlile, who has been asked by Mr Reid to review the proposals, said it was appropriate to allow the evidence, and not just in terrorist cases, but warned that it was "not a cure-all".
On stop and question powers for police, Mr Reid prompted laughter from opposition MPs who have read of ministerial opposition to the plan, when he said it was subject to further internal government consultation.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said the Conservatives supported some of the proposals, particularly post-charge interviews and the use of intercept evidence, but not extending the 28-day limit, which was already a "draconian" measure.
"Our priority must be to prosecute and convict terrorists, nothing less," he said.
"It is the only way a liberal democracy can ensure terrorists remain locked up until they no longer threaten public safety. It does not require this House to undermine the ancient rights that millions died defending."
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said his party would co-operate with the other parties, but "not at any cost".
He insisted that maintaining a balance between "customary British liberties" and the new measures was essential and said he would not back an extension of the 28-day detention period.
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