07-16-2007, 11:08 AM
Direct Action Resistance Fighter
Joined: Aug 2006
Backing for terror detention call
Quote:Two senior peers have supported police calls to be allowed to hold terror suspects longer before charging them.
The government's independent reviewer of terrorism laws Lord Carlile said senior judges, not politicians, should set the limit - currently 28 days.
Security Minister Lord West said the complexity of the threat meant police would need longer to question suspects.
Police say they are "up against the buffers" on the limit, but critics say extending it amounts to "internment".
The issue led to Tony Blair's first Commons defeat as prime minister in 2005 when MPs rejected attempts to extend the limit to 90 days.
The issue was re-opened at the weekend when Ken Jones, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said police needed more flexibility and suspects should be held "for as long as it takes".
Lord Carlile told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it would be better if senior judges, "who have a great deal of experience in analysing evidence", should monitor individual detention periods, which should be subject to appeal.
"In that context, I think it would be extraordinary to suggest that anybody but a very, very small number of people would be detained for more than 28 days, but the judgment would be in the interests of justice," he said.
He said he believed that would be backed by civil liberties groups, adding: "My view is that people should never be detained for a day longer than is necessary in the interests of justice. Nor should people be detained for a day shorter than is necessary in the interests of justice."
In June the then home secretary John Reid said he, Mr Blair and Mr Brown believed the 28-day limit was not long enough.
'Threat to society'
Lord West told BBC the most recent comments on the issue were not part of a concerted campaign by the government to extend it.
But he said the scale and complexity of the threat - with police monitoring about 200 groupings or networks "which to varying degrees are threatening our society" - meant that police would eventually need to hold suspects for longer.
He said the government was "absolutely adamant" it would safeguard civil liberties, but the average man or woman also had the right to life.
He admitted no cases had currently taken over 28 days, but said one alleged plot had gone "right up to the wire".
Police had to have the time to gather evidence for conviction, he said, as terrorists were getting "cleverer and cleverer" at hiding data.
"How we exactly do that is something I hope we can come to some sort of consensus with because I believe it is so important for this nation," he said.
"This is a real threat to this nation and we've got to somehow confront it."
At the weekend Mr Jones warned in a newspaper interview that police were "up against the buffers on the 28-day limit" but later said he was not arguing for "indeterminate detention".
Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, of campaign group Liberty, said: "We elect politicians to determine legislation and we expect chief constables to uphold the rule of law, not campaign for internment."
Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis said not "one shred of evidence" had so far been presented which demonstrated the need to extend the limit.
And Liberal Democrat MP, Evan Harris, said the 28-day limit was "already one of the longest for a democracy" and no evidence had been presented to show it was insufficient.
The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall. - Che Guevara
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