Extending pre-charge detention to 42 days!

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So four Muslim MPs voted with Government to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days! They can be put to shame!

Muhammad Sarwar (Glasgow Central), Khalid Mahmoud (Birmingham Perry Barr), Shahid Malik (Dewsbury) and even former human rights lawyer Sadiq Khan (Tooting) did not have the bottle to make a stand.

Liberty, the human rights body, described the issue of principle as follows:


[42 day detention] would fly in the face of our basic democratic principles of justice, fairness and liberty to hold people for over a month on the basis of police suspicion rather than hard evidence and without formally accusing them of any criminal offence. Innocent people would almost certainly be detained for long periods of time and then released without charge. Released after six weeks in police custody, the suspect may well have lost their job, home and the trust of their community, friends and perhaps even family.

There were brave MPs who did stand by their principles in the infamous Parliamentary vote of 12th June 2008 on the Counter-Terrorism Bill. The Labour rebels who stood for justice rather than opportunism were:

Diane Abbott, Hackney North & Stoke Newington
Richard Burden, Birmingham, Northfield
Katy Clark, Ayrshire North & Arran
Harry Cohen, Leyton & Wanstead
Frank Cook, Stockton North
Jeremy Corbyn, Islington Nort
Jim Cousins, Newcastle upon Tyne Central
Andrew Dismore, Hendon
Frank Dobson, Holborn & St Pancras
David Drew, Stroud
Paul Farrelly, Newcastle-under-Lyme
Mark Fisher, Stoke-on-Trent Central
Paul Flynn, Newport West
Neil Gerrard, Walthamstow
Ian Gibson, Norwich North
John Grogan, Selby
Dai Havard, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney
Kate Hoey, Vauxhall
Kelvin Hopkins, Luton North
Glenda Jackson, Hampstead & Highgate
Lynne Jones, Birmingham, Selly Oak
Peter Kilfoyle, Thurrock
Robert Marshall-Andrews, Medway
John McDonnell, Hayes & Harlington
Michael Meacher, Oldham West & Royton
Chris Mullin, Sunderland South
Doug Naysmith, Bristol North West
Gordon Prentice, Pendle
Linda Riordan, Halifax
Alan Simpson, Nottingham South
Emily Thornberry, Islington South & Finsbury
David Winnick, Walsall North
Mike Wood, Batley & Spen

Mr Sarwar participated in the debate with a supportive intervention that helped the Government: he commended the proposed bill because it offered financial compensation to those detained for more than 28 days!

No ethnic or Muslim MP demonstrated the courage of Conservative David Davis who declared that he was standing down as shadow home secretary to trigger a bye election to stop “the insidious and relentless erosion of civil liberties in Britain.

Davis and a few other MPs spoke out pointedly and eloquently at this draconian 42-day pre-charge detention. For example:

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): … The fear in the Muslim community in my constituency, and in Muslim communities up and down the country, is that if the 42-day period goes on the statute book in the terms proposed, it would become routine, with all the negative consequences for our security and for community cohesion that we have heard about…I have no sympathy whatever for terrorists. However, to put the issue in real terms, not on paper, I want hon. Members to imagine what it feels like for someone who is innocent under the proposed regime. They are taken from their bed in the early hours of the morning, which is what normally happens. They are locked in a cell for six weeks – 1,000 hours – and they do not know why: not what they are accused of, not what the suspicions are, not what the evidence is. They do not know what is happening to their job. They do not know what is happening to their reputation. They do not know what is happening to their wife or their neighbours. They do not know what is happening to their children, who sometimes face the harsh cruelty of other children. They do not know that for six weeks – 1,000 hours. No money on this earth will compensate for that.

What we have is the worst of all worlds: a symbolic assault on liberty that is unnecessary, a change in the law that is counter-productive and a procedure that is unworkable. We do not defend our liberties by sacrificing our liberties. We must reject the Government’s proposals.

Mr. Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): I am listening to what the Home Secretary is saying, but is this not essentially hollow macho legislation that is not so much about keeping terrorists in detention for 42 days but about keeping the Prime Minister in Downing street for two years? If he falls on this tonight, he will be out of Downing street within 42 days.

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice & Howden) (Con): …The issue of how long we incarcerate those on whom we have insufficient evidence to charge with any crime has become one of the defining debates of the last decade in this country. Notably, this week marks the anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. For almost 800 years, we have built on the right of habeas corpus, founded in that ancient document: the fundamental freedom from arbitrary detention by the state. The liberty of the person is in our blood, part of our history, part of our way of life; Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Democratic Unionists – all parties. Liberty is the common strand that binds us together, and we have shed blood to protect it, both abroad and at home. Today the Government ask us to sacrifice some of that liberty. The Home Secretary offers a Faustian bargain: to trade a fundamental liberty for a little extra security….. between 2003 and 2005, there were nine plots, three a year, and there have been four since the beginning of 2006, two a year. So, the number of plots, far from increasing, has actually decreased over the past three years. That is a good thing, but it is not an argument for extra powers, and although we should not underestimate the threat, we should not overstate it either….Mr. Clarke offered the observation that in the Barot case, police officers had occasion to sleep at the office. Frankly, I should prefer that police officers sleep at the office for two weeks than risk putting innocent people in a cell for six weeks…The former chief inspector of constabulary has described the proposal on 42 days as a ‘propaganda coup’ for al-Qaeda. They are a gift to ‘propagandists’ that will drive the brainwashed to ‘acts of martyrdom’, according to one former Metropolitan police commissioner. They are a threat to local community intelligence, according to the Governmentís own impact assessment on the Bill. The proposal is wrong in principle and dangerous in practice.

Mr. John Baron (Billerecay) (Conservative): Having served in Northern Ireland, I suggest … that internment was not just a mistake, but counter-productive. It went directly against the armed forces because terrorists were able to go into communities and recruit actively, on the basis of internment, much better than they could otherwise. We do not want to make that mistake in this country with communities from whom we seek co-operation.

Mr Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Labour): I voted for 90 days, because at that time I saw no other option. I have since changed my position, because the Government have not made their case for new powers, we have experience of the 28-day maximum, the safeguards are not adequate, alternatives are available and I do not believe that the proposals will make us safer. In fact, they risk alienation and division in our society.

…I do not believe that the Government have made their case for the need for 42 days. In the evidence that they have given to us, the threat level has been described as ‘about the same’. There have been assertions of a growing threat in terms of numbers, but no qualitative analysis or assessment has been provided. We should never underestimate the threat, which is of course serious, but equally we should not over-hype it.

…As the compensation scheme is to be confined solely to cases under these arrangements, and not applied generally to people held on charge and released, one can only assume that that is the case. We must also consider the impact that that would have on other suspects – for example, those who may have been held on bail for a long time and then acquitted. They will say, ‘Well, the Muslims are getting money, why aren’t we?’That could have an impact on community relations.