Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Police State Britain: the 42-day detention 'protect the public' myth

There is an absolutely appalling article in today's Telegraph, basically a piece of government propaganda, written by Peter Clarke (until recently head of the counter-terrorism command at Scotland Yard). There is so much to write about this outrageous attempt at extending the right of the State to lengthen the [already far too long] period it may hold citizens without charge from 28 to 42 days, but I will limit myself (today is my birthday after all) to one of the many highly-disingenuous justifications for the change:

When I was asked, in 2005, by the home affairs select committee how many terrorists I had been obliged to let go through lack of time to investigate, I inwardly despaired. It was the wrong question. We should look forward, not back. The fact that we have been able to convict more than 60 terrorists in the last year or so is irrelevant.

The better question would have been: "Is it likely that there will come a time when the present 28-day limit is insufficient?" The answer would have been, "undoubtedly". That is why we should legislate now, and not in panic in an emergency.

Oh, this aims to sound very re-assuring (or at least Peter Clarke presumably hopes it does), but what is he really saying? Basically there might, sometime in the future, be a case where, whatever limit on detention without charge is set, the period allowed would not be sufficient for the police to formulate actual charges against a detainee. This was the same when the period was 72 hours and is the same now with 28 days. It would be the same with 42, 56 or 90 days. Even if the period of detention were to be set at, say (just to be ridiculous), 5 years, there might come a time sometime in the future where the police contended it was not adequate for them to investigate exhaustively their suspicions of a given detainee and come to the conclusion that no plausible charges could be brought.

This idea that we should legislate for every theoretical contingency in the future is tanatmount to saying that people should be able to be held indefinitely, just in case. I'm truly amazed at the brass-necks of these people, expecting us to swallow their half-baked ideas and ignore this blatant attempt at normalising increasingly-long periods of detention without charge as somehow being 'for our own good'! The mindset of these would-be tyrants seems to be that the concept of 'habeas corpus' no longer has a value.

As for Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's attempts to placate Labour 'rebels', disingenuous does not even begin to cover it!

PS/ I find it extremely depressing that a writer for the Spectator is so easily-duped by the current propaganda offensive by the government to have its way. Frankly this is far more important than Party politics and the suggested desire by potentially-rebellious Labour MPs not to inflict further harm on an already-weakened government and is most certainly no justification for them going against their consciences - it is not something to understand, rather it is something to condemn them for if they take this course of action and for which their electors should punish them at the next election for their treachery against the long-term public interest and the democratic future of this country.

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