42-day law will help terrorists, says Sir John Major

totalgenius

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Gordon Brown’s case for holding terrorism suspects without charge for 42 days is bogus and little more than scaremongering, according to Sir John Major.

The former Conservative Prime Minister, writing in The Times today, said that Mr Brown’s security measures were more likely to encourage terrorist recruitment than defeat the extremist threat to Britain.

His remarks coincided with mounting concerns among antiterrorist police that concessions made to win Labour backbench support for the 42-day proposal had created a complex and almost unworkable scheme.

Police are also alarmed that the revised proposals for parliamentary scrutiny could compromise the security of an antiterrorist investigation at the height of an emergency. A senior source told The Times: “Some of what is being proposed amounts to a blurring of the lines between politics and operational policing.”

Mr Brown is facing his most serious parliamentary test when the vote takes place next Wednesday. It could be decided by the votes of the nine Democratic Unionists.

Yesterday’s criticisms will dent ministers’ confidence that amendments to the Counter-Terrorism Bill had put them on track to win next week’s key vote.

Sir John’s attack is one of his strongest criticisms of Labour since he left office after the general election defeat of 1997. He broadened his critique from the issue of 42 days to wage an all-out attack on Labour’s conduct of the War on Terror since 2001. Sir John said that ancient British rights were under threat from a government that embellished the case for going to war in Iraq, was complicit in the rendition of suspects to the American internment camp at Guantanamo Bay and presented the public with a misleading case for introducing compulsory ID cards.

He writes: “If we are seen to defend our own values in a manner that does violence to them, then we run the risk of losing those values. Even worse, if our own standards fall it will serve to recruit terrorists more effectively than their own propaganda could ever hope to do. The Government has introduced measures to protect against terror. These go beyond anything contemplated when Britain faced far more regular – and no less violent – assaults from the IRA. The justification of these has sometimes come close to scaremongering.”

Sir John cautioned against the creation by Labour of “an intrusive State with authoritarian tendencies”. He added: “This is not a United Kingdom I recognise and Parliament should not accept it.”

He was joined in his attack by the Church of England. A spokesman said: “We believe that a convincing case for the extension of the maximum period of detention without charge beyond 28 days has not been made out. This central point has not been addressed. We believe that any extension beyond 28 days will unacceptably disturb the balance between the liberty of the individual and the needs of national security.”

Sir Ken Macdonald, QC, who as Director of Public Prosecutions would have a key role in authorising extended periods of detention, said that he was not swayed by the Government’s amendments and repeated his view that the 42-day power was not needed.

But in an interview with The Spectator, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said:“I think if it was turned into a vote of confidence there would be massive support of the Government.”





By Sean O’Neill, Crime and Security Editor
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4076321.ece
 
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totalgenius

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Why detention for 42 days? It just doesn't add up

The Prime Minister plucked a detention number from the air with no evidence to back it up

Once again Gordon Brown has sought to explain what it is that has driven him to push on with his proposals to extend the maximum period for pre-charge detention, from 28 days to 42 days. “I will stick to the principles I have set out,” he wrote this week in The Times, “and do the right thing.” What are those principles, and what is the right thing?

The context in which this issue comes up raises points on which few will disagree. The threat of terror is real. The availability of new technologies might make it more difficult to apprehend those who seek to cause harm. Globalisation means that networks of individuals extend across national boundaries. No doubt these factors do combine to make more complex the work of those who seek to prevent attacks, but has he satisfied us on the crucial question: does the Prime Minister have evidence that the existing limit on pre-charge detention is somehow inadequate?

The most striking feature of his claim to be acting on principle is his failure to set out any compelling evidence or facts that would justify an extension. The most basic is surely the need for the most important political decisions to be justified by evidence, rather than hypothesis or instinct or expediency. Curiously, Mr Brown makes no

claim that experience since the time limit was raised to 28 days demonstrates that a further extension is needed. Vague allegations are bandied around, mention is made of 200 networks and 30 cells, but Tony Blair's legacy is that the public has long lost confidence in such claims.

His successor has not pointed to a single case in which the 28-day limit was shown to be inadequate, or why an additional 14 days would have addressed the problem. He identifies not one example of any person who has had to be released because the 28-day limit was reached before investigations could be completed. He fails to mention the number of cases in which individuals were charged on or shortly before the limit was reached (I am told he would be hard pressed to do so as the number is very small: well short of a dozen).

On his own account, the Prime Minister abandons the one principle that matters: decent evidence. What seems to have happened is that early on in his premiership Mr Brown took a punt on a number - an arbitrary 42 days - and is now stuck with it. The policy was fixed on the basis of an ill-conceived political objective - tough on terror - and not on the basis of the evidence or any proper consultation. Consequently, the principles now invoked by the Prime Minister seem almost absurd.

“There should always be a maximum limit.” Terrifically reassuring. “The Home Secretary must take [the] decision to Parliament.” If Parliament isn't sitting, are MPs expected to be recalled to vote on the question of whether to extend someone's detention for two weeks? If the event of circumstances to justify that extreme possibility, then why not just invoke the 2004 Civil Contingency Act, which already allows for detention beyond the existing limit?

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the manoeuvring and concessions are designed to find some way - any way - to keep the magical number of 42. Saving face, or avoiding another U-turn, is no way to make law on so vital an issue.

The 42-day debacle would be much less worrisome if it stood in splendid isolation. Let him have his 42 days, some might say, and then we can move on. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister's muddled and dangerous thinking on this issue is part of a wider pattern. Mr Blair launched an unremitting assault on the rule of law. He caused Britain to be the only one of the members of the Council of Europe to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights to allow indefinite detention without charge or trial of certain non-nationals. The courts struck that down.

In legal proceedings in England he wanted to be able to rely on evidence that may have been obtained by torture in legal proceedings in England. The courts struck that down too. After the July 7 bombings Mr Blair's Home Secretary boldly stated that the Government “would not be constrained by international conventions or by the way the judiciary interpreted them”.

Many hoped that those days of Labour's broken relationship with the rule of law and evidence-based decision-making had ended with the arrival of a new prime minister. Sadly, they have not.

Forty-two days should be rejected for what it is, and for the kind of thinking that lurks beneath. The Prime Minister is right to raise issues of principle. However, his governing principle - political survival - should not save this measure, or those that may follow. They are not “the right thing”.

Philippe Sands QC is a practising barrister and Professor of Law at University College London. His new book is Torture Team: Cruelty, Deception and the Compromise of Law





By Philippe Sands
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article4069036.ece
 

pipsqueaker

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I just don't understand why 42 days, why not 50 days or 35 days.

Just a lot of hot air about nothing.
 

FUBAR69

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The man is joke, I am embarassed to say he is Scottish, a disgrace to his country, the sooner we pull the chain and dump the turd the better.
 
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