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    The campaign against 42-day Detention

  • How did MPs vote?
  • MCB vs BMF - their respective stands
  • Maulana Bostan Qadri rallies the Muslim voice (June 2008)
  • Lord Ahmed's dramatic revelations (July 2008)
  • Lord Goldsmith - Attorney General 2001-2007 (13th October 2008)
  • Debate in the Lords (13th October 2008)

    On Thursday 12th June 2008, the House of Commons voted by a narrow majority in support of the Government's anti-terrorism bill, which included an unprecedented infringment on civil liberties - the detention of a person suspected of terrorism for 42 days, without the necessity of raising charges.

    The human rights body, Liberty, highlighted the issue 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".

    Journalist Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian was even more explicit:

    "Brown and his ministers claim that 'terrorism' - code for militant Islam - poses an unprecedented threat to western civilisation. Why then do they persist in undermining a pillar of that civilisation, freedom under the law? Why keep giving Osama bin Laden new feathers to put in his turban?...Detention without charge cannot be regarded as simply a matter of police convenience in a good cause. An increasing number of cases are coming to appeal of people wrongly arrested and held in Belmarsh for months or years on such flimsy evidence as CIA say-so (as with an innocent Algerian airline pilot in 2001) or the presence on a computer of 'terrorist' material (as with Yassin Nassari in 2007). The same sort of evidence resulted in the Pakistani president's advance entourage being held for 24 hours in January on suspicion of plotting terrorism. When [former Scotland Yard counter-terrorism chief] Clarke says the 'checks and balances in our system prevent arbitrary detention' he is talking rubbish". [4th June 2008]

    The Bill is now to be debated in the Lords, and the progress of the civil society coalition is tracked in this section of Salaam 'Defining Events'.

    How did the MPs vote?

    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 in the Commons vote on 12th June 2008.

    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 North

    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 byelection 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 Government’s 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.

    [acknowledgements: Salaam blogger]

    MCB vs BMF - their respective stands

    From the Muslim Council of Britain: The Muslim Council of Britain joins human rights groups, a growing body of thinkers and policymakers dealing with our security, together with the vast majority of the British public who oppose the extension of pre-charge-detention. Any further extension of pre-charge detention risks being counterproductive, damaging community relations and undermining the UK's moral authority around the world. We oppose terrorism in all its forms. We are all concerned about the right to security, free from terror, but this proposal serves to compound the problem, not resolve it.

    "We do not believe that the government has made a convincing case for extending the pre-charge detention period from 28 days to 42 days. We are very concerned about the negative impact that this proposed legislation could have on relations between younger members of the Muslim community and the police. Of course it is right that we take proper precautions against the threat of terrorism, however, it is our view that this legislation will be counterproductive and will play into the hands of extremist groups," said Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain.

    [Press release, 10th June 2008]

    From the British Muslim Forum: Report in The Sun, 10th June 2008: "Britain's top Muslim praised Gordon Brown and demanded MPs back new laws to hold terror suspects. Khurshid Ahmed, chairman of the British Muslim Forum, the UK's largest representative organisation, called for 42 days' detention without charge.

    He said it was vital to protect the nation.

    Mr Ahmed applauded the PM for also insisting on safeguards to protect innocent people who are held."

    Khurshid Ahmed writing in the Guardian, 11th June 2008: "While we have vigorously campaigned against the former 90-day and the current 42-day proposal, we have never ignored the severity and a high probability of the security threat faced by this country. Nor have we underestimated the government's strong resolve to secure the proposal in parliament and a reasonable likelihood of it being enacted. In this context, our strategy was to campaign against the proposal while at the same time seeking concessions to secure a balance between the need to safeguard the security of the country and provide protection of civil liberties. The package of concessions reinforced by the proposal to compensate for the damage done in loss of opportunity, reputation and the accompanying stigma goes a long way in addressing our concerns. The legal process now proposed renders the use of these powers to very exceptional circumstances only.

    In these circumstances, by agreeing the package, we are acknowledging the severity of the threat to this country and playing our part in securing the safety of all our citizens. British Muslims are confident in their faith and proud to be British. We support tough measures against terrorism and all forms of criminality as long as they are applied fairly and proportionately across all communities".

    Maulana Bostan Qadri rallies Muslim voices (June 2008)

    On 21st June 2008, the widely respected Barelwi leader Maulana Bostan Qadri, organised a closed-door consultation meeting of Muslim bodies under the auspices of the 'Council of Pakistani Organisations', in Sparkbrook Mosque, Birmingham. The discussions reflected the determination within the Muslim community to campaign against 42 days' detention, and form alliances with other civil society bodies. Khurshid Ahmed of the BMF, who attended, was asked to explain his stand. Maulana Bostan Qadri urged that the community expected the MCB and BMF to oppose the Bill.

    Maulana Qadri's Confederation of Sunni Mosques is both a founding member of the MCB and also of the British Muslim Forum. Active in Muslim affairs in Britain for almost 50 years, his decision to take up a leadership role on the 42 day issue is significant. He is uniquely placed to ensure community unity. Recently profiled in The Guardian (7th April 2008), he noted, "there are 100 mosques in Birmingham and all the mosques, imams and scholars are quite clear [in being] against terrorism. It is a very small problem that has been exaggerated and I think it can be solved - by talking and cooperation. Mostly I am hopeful that the future of this country is bright."

    Lord Ahmed's dramatic revelations (8th July 2008)

    Lord Ahmed: My Lords, there is no doubt in my mind that we have to defend our country and its citizens against those who may have evil and malicious intentions that lead to havoc and chaos and instil fear in civilians. Over the past few weeks, I have been consulting various groups from my community, and my fear is that the proposal in the Counter-Terrorism Bill for 42 days’ pre-charge detention will play into the hands of extremist groups and individuals and increase anti-Muslim feelings. It will be counterproductive as it will lead to damaged community relations and will further alienate the people we are aiming to integrate into our society. It is unjust and violates people’s rights. It will inevitably undermine the UK’s moral authority around the world. We have a proud history of respecting civil liberties from the early days of Magna Carta and the principle of habeas corpus. It is for these reasons that I will be opposing the Government’s proposed extension of pre-charge detention to 42 days.

    I should like to draw noble Lords’ attention to some points that have gone some way in helping me make my decision. For many decades we have been a target for terrorism, whether by the IRA or others. However, I am proud that we have kept our traditions of freedom, justice and respect for individual rights, except for a short period when the counterproductive measure of internment was used in Northern Ireland, as mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and my noble friend Lord Dubs. Your Lordships will be aware that until 1974 crimes related to terrorism were generally dealt with through ordinary criminal law procedures. However, from 1974 to 2000 successive Governments sought to build upon the new statutory regime that had been implemented. The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Acts that were introduced after 1974 were reactionary measures passed in response to various terror attacks. The first such Act was passed in 1974 in response to the IRA attacks in Birmingham. One feature of the Act was that it allowed police officers to hold terror suspects for a maximum of seven days before they were charged.

    Although it was initially envisioned as a temporary measure, at intervals, the Act was renewed, reflecting the built-in sunset clauses, until 1989, with significant amendments in 1976, 1984, and 1989. These arrangements came to an end with the Terrorism Act 2000, which consolidated and amended earlier provisions, and introduced new measures. The 2000 Act was the beginning of a new chapter that took UK terror laws into a new era.

    Since 2000, this Government have introduced six pieces of legislation relating to terrorism. Before us today is yet another anti-terror Bill for our consideration. I am disturbed by the fact that it proposes to extend the pre-charge detention limit to the magic figure of 42 days. In 2006, the Government advocated 90 days, 60 days or any figure that they could pluck out of thin air. The 42 days seems to be another bingo or lottery number that they have dreamt up.

    I pay tribute to those Members of Parliament who stood firm on their principles and voted against this proposal. In particular, I applaud the courage of the 36 Labour MPs who refused to accept the extension of pre-charge detention, which illustrates the true essence of British democracy. If only MPs who aim to integrate young Muslims into British society had voted against this draconian measure, it would never have come to this House.

    Many distinguished and influential members of our society have voiced their opposition to various features of the anti-terror legislation. They include the former Prime Minister, Sir John Major, and Sir Ken MacDonald. We have already heard the noble and learned Lords, Lord Falconer and Lord Goldsmith, the noble Lord, Lord Condon, and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallingham-Buller, in her eloquent maiden speech, oppose the 42 days. The former Lord Chief Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, as well as organisations such as Amnesty International, Liberty and Human Rights Watch, have all expressed their concerns.

    Where is the real evidence that we need 42 days? In November 2007, even my noble friend Lord West was not convinced. Is it not amazing how a cup of tea at No. 10 Downing Street two hours later can change someone’s priorities as well as the strength of their beliefs? It is unfortunate to hear so many stories about knighthoods, peerages, financial incentives and political sweeteners being offered in order to garner support for this outrageous proposal.

    I am aware of only one so-called Muslim leader who supports the Government on this issue. I was shocked to learn that the same individual who supported the Government in the Sun, the Daily Telegraph, and the English section of the Daily Jang, in the Urdu side of the Daily Jang stated:

    “Even seven days without charge is unacceptable to the British Muslim Forum”.

    How can the Government be proud to be in bed with such an individual? I suppose that when you are desperate, want to sound tough and are doing it at the expense of that community, you need someone who epitomises Judas. Is it not funny how history repeats itself and we have the Mir Jaffars and Mir Sadiqs among our communities today?

    I understand that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has granted a substantial amount of money to a project called 'I am the West', which has been described as a deradicalisation programme, headed by the chairman of the British Muslim Forum. I should be obliged if my noble friend could confirm whether the £4.6 million granted for this project was given to an organisation headed by this man and on what basis this fund was allocated to this organisation. Would he be kind enough to tell the House whether the CBE granted to this man was a gesture of thanks for his unconditional support for these proposals?

    This has been a sad experience at the expense of our liberties and human rights, and at the expense of the habeas corpus principle which is embedded in the Magna Carta and our basic British principles that we so rightly defend. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, who is not in his place, and others have reminded the House how popular this measure is with the public and that the job of this Parliament is to respect public opinion. I wonder why he and others did not ask the Government to respect the more than 70 per cent of the Irish community who was against the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008, or to respect the more than 70 per cent of the British public who demanded the right to a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, or to respect the millions of people who marched on the streets of London to stop the war in Iraq.

    With all due respect, even today, if we asked the public whether those paedophiles who ruin the lives of children should be hanged in Parliament Square, I am convinced that the overwhelming majority would vote for it. So why are we selective in pointing out public opinion when it suits our arguments, but remain deadly silent when our public demands that we should withdraw our troops from Iraq? Why do we remain silent on issues of morality, human rights and wars which are launched on fabricated evidence? Last week, I asked a young man about the Government's proposal and he said, “Sir, I believe that our anti-terror laws are now on a par with McCarthyism and the experience of the Jewish community within Europe during the last century”. I cannot support the 42 days on the one hand, yet talk about the experience of the Muslim youth on the other, as the junior Minister did last week. If that is how young people feel, I am afraid that the Government’s rhetoric about winning hearts and minds will be doomed to failure. You cannot demonise peoples’ faith and marginalise young individuals, then expect to win any support from those you have alienated.

    Finally, I love this country, its people and its diversity. Already, the spying culture, the stop-and-search and control orders, and demonisation is creating a wedge between the mainstream society and young Muslims. The ACPO report, entitled Hearts and Minds and Eyes and Ears stated that,
    “increasing numbers of young Muslims have become alienated from mainstream society that they could even lend their support to ... terrorism”. The Government’s measure in this Bill will only further alienation and segregation, and create radicalisation. I will wait for this Bill to return to your Lordships’ House to ensure that we bury this part of it before it becomes law.

    Lord Goldsmith - Attorney General 2001-2007

    "Today sees the return to the House of Lords of the contentious issue of extending to 42 days the time someone can be held by the police without being charged. I would have wanted to take part in the debate, though unavoidably I will be absent overseas. My view is that this pernicious provision should be removed from this bill now.

    I regard it as not only unnecessary but also counterproductive; and we should fight to protect the liberties the terrorists would take from us, not destroy them ourselves. This proposal is wrong in principle and dangerous in practice.

    During my time as attorney general I studied the issue of how long suspects can be held before being charged, and was closely involved with a number of the terrorist plots with which the bill is designed to deal. I had been a solitary voice in government in questioning 90 days. I am confident that it is a wrong-headed and dangerous approach to extend still further the time for pre-trial detention.

    It is now hard to find anyone outside the ranks of government who regards this as a sensible proposal. It has been rejected by two former directors of MI5; the experience of prosecutors is that 28 days is sufficient; it has been condemned by former attorneys general, lord chancellors and senior police officers. In the House of Lords, eminent speaker after speaker spoke against it, cataloguing its faults and dangers. It is unnecessary, unworkable, a constitutional muddle and an easy propaganda coup for the extremist radicalisers.....

    'No one wants this terror bill, The Guardian, 13th October 2008

    Debate in the Lords (13th October 2008)

    "Gordon Brown tonight abandoned his parliamentary battle to allow police to detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days, after the Lords overwhelmingly rejected the proposal by 191 votes. In an emergency statement to MPs tonight, Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, said that the counter-terrorism bill would continue its journey through parliament without the 42 day measure." The Guardian, 14th October 2008

    Some extracts from the debate are presented below, with key points highlighted in bold

    Lord Dear

    "...It almost beggars belief that any Administration could embark on such a course. Just look at the list of those who oppose the Government: the Law Society; Amnesty; Liberty; Justice; the previous Attorney-General; the previous Solicitor-General and Lord Chancellor; and successive Directors of Public Prosecutions....perhaps worst of all, the legislation seeks further to erode fundamental, legal and civil rights that have been the pride of this country for centuries. Simple mathematics will tell us that 793 years ago Magna Carta declared in one line:
    'To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
    We have recommended that principle to the rest of the world and have in part fought wars to preserve it. It set our legal system apart from the world for many years and it was held up as an exemplar. We have gone far enough. There is no proven case for change. This attempt to appear tough on terrorism is a shabby charade that is unworthy of a democratic process, and we should reject it....

    Baroness Neville-Jones

    ....Many Members of the Committee will have seen the report in the Times on 6 October, which said that the Government have effectively dropped the proposals to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days and that they would,
    'effectively confine the controversial proposal ... to the legislative dustbin.'

    So why are we debating this again? It is a criminal offence to waste police time and I wonder whether that offence also extends to wasting the time of the Committee.

    This debate is an unhelpful distraction. It distracts us at a time when we should be concentrating our energies on more pressing issues: that is, the economy; other sensitive parts of this Bill, such as inquiries and inquests; post-charge questioning, which we on these Benches would like to see play a useful role in terrorist investigations, but with suitable safeguards; or things that will really aid us in the prosecution of terrorism, such as the use of intercept evidence, a measure that should be in the Bill, but is not.

    The proposal to extend pre-charge detention fails on three significant grounds; namely, necessity, desirability and practicability. Let me be clear: the proposal is unnecessary, undesirable and unworkable.... So the Government’s case is not good enough as grounds for taking power to keep people in detention for periods much longer than any other comparable democracy thinks necessary to confront the terrorist threat... In his very powerful intervention, the noble Lord, Lord Dear, repeated a remark he made some time ago to the effect that the previously described proposal to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days was a propaganda coup and a recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda. The Home Office’s own risk assessment for the proposal stated,
    'It puts at risk the flow of community intelligence'.

    That is the Government’s own department. Community intelligence is a priority area for counterterrorism work. We have not got it quite right yet, but these proposals will hinder us unnecessarily in trying to get it right, and I personally attach a great deal of importance to the development of community intelligence. Let me be clear: these are security warnings. The proposal to extend pre-charge detention has real potential security drawbacks....

    ... As the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, said in her maiden speech, we are all trying to facilitate the work of the police, intelligence and security services to detect and counter terrorism, and we are all agreed on that. But to fulfil our constitutional role, we must ensure that our laws in this sensitive area of national life are relevant and proportionate. The proposal to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days fails on both grounds, and that is why we oppose it.

    Lord Thomas of Gresford

    .... Anyone who has travelled from British airports over the past two years will know that they have had to carry their toothpaste, shaving cream and toiletries in a clear plastic bag and they have been reduced to carrying one item of luggage. It has not been the easiest time for travellers.

    This is a result of Operation Overt. Twenty-four suspects—young Muslim men—were arrested on the night of 9 August 2006. After 12 days, on 21 August, 11 were charged with conspiracy to blow up aeroplanes in flight by mixing liquids together, carried, it is said, in Lucozade bottles, into an explosive concoction. An application to extend time beyond 14 days was granted in respect of another nine. Of these, six were subsequently charged—two on 15 August, some 16 days after arrest; three on 30 August, after 21 days; and three were released after being held for, respectively, 24 days, 27 days and 27-and-a-half days. Of the 21 who were charged, only eight eventually faced trial some 18 months later. On 8 September, only four weeks ago, two years after the original arrests, the jury, after more than 50 hours of deliberations, was unable to agree any verdict against seven of the defendants relating to the plot to blow up aircraft. Three were, however, found guilty of other conspiracy to murder charges; one was acquitted entirely. So the total bag out of the 24 who were originally arrested was three convictions unrelated to the airline plot. I say no more about it for the reason the intervention was made just now. I am told that there may be retrials and that the Government are facing expensive civil litigation from airlines who lost millions from the restrictions imposed upon them.

    But would the outcome of these trials have been any different if those people had been kept without charge for 42 days? The period for detention in Spain is 14 days. Twenty-nine suspects were arrested for the Madrid bombings and there were 21 convictions. I made the point at Second Reading that the charging of a suspect does not for a moment inhibit the continuing investigation of an alleged offence. So there is no case whatever for suggesting that 42 days will bring about a conviction when 28 days will not. The Home Office agrees because, in its consultation paper, Options for Pre-Charge Detention in Terrorism Cases, published in July 2007, it acknowledged that there has been no case in which a suspect was released but a higher limit than 28 days would definitely have led to a charge.

    ....A fundamental concern arises from the proposition that a young Muslim—and they all have been young Muslims—should be arrested on nothing more than the words of an officer, 'I believe you to be a terrorist'. According to the highly experienced defence barrister, Ali Naseem Bajwa, who gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, detainees are taken to the police station and told nothing for many days of the basis upon which they are there. In Operation Overt, it emerged that disclosure was virtually non-existent for the first week of custody. Disclosure is, of course, where the police tell the defence solicitor, if there is one, of the nature of the matters about which they intend to question the suspect. Over the first four days of their detention, there were only three hours, on average, of total questioning of each detainee—three hours over four days each. Rather than being about any offence they may have committed, the questioning was mostly about their personal circumstances and background. Those who were charged after 15 days—the first group—were interviewed in total for 13 to 14 hours each. That is rather less than one hour a day. Those who lingered on to the end of the 28-day period before being released spent only the same amount of time overall—13 to 14 hours—in interview. Many days of their last 15 passed without any interview at all; the average was for 10 minutes a day. So extending time limits for questioning suspects seems to encourage a very leisurely approach.

    Lord Falconer of Thoroton

    ....The idea that extending it from 28 days to 42 days is going to make a difference is utterly fanciful.

    I have read the Home Office’s documents very carefully to seek to justify the extension from 28 to 42 days. The Home Office accepts that the threshold test is now used extensively in terrorist cases and that where there is a reasonable suspicion and a likelihood of getting the evidence it is not necessary to have a 51 per cent chance. However, it says that there is a gap when it might not be possible to get the evidence 'within a reasonable time'. I have thought very carefully about what that could mean. Are there judges in this country who, when they are told that the evidence could be obtained over the next six months, will be influenced by the fact, and say that if you had had 14 days more they might allow the prosecution to continue? It is utter nonsense.

    Lord Imbert

    ...I do not accept the argument that I have heard noble Lords making that asking for an extension of maybe just hours beyond the present 28-day limit of detention would be a recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda. The recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda was the invasion of an Islamic country by the USA and Britain and the fact that our troops are still in occupation. However, I concede that, if we continue to talk about 42 days’ detention before charge as though it were the norm and not an exception, that will both confuse and help to radicalise some impressionable young Muslims....The senior police officers to whom I have spoken have assured me that the proposal for 42 days was not made at their request.

    Baroness Warsi

    I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I presume that he, like everybody else in this Committee, is here with one thing in mind: to protect our country. Having outlined the long list of things that form the threat that we face—and I accept that we face a grave and real risk—would he not accept that the only real and sustainable way in which to deal with this challenge of extremism that we all face is by making sure that the majority of Britain feels that they are part of big-tent Britain? Would he not say that this is not a simple argument between the rights of the victims and human rights of the terrorist? This is an argument about how we have a long-term solution to the challenge of extremism, and locking people up for 42 days will alienate the very communities that we need on board to support us in facing this challenge together.

    Lord Ahmed

    Will the Minister indicate the survey and which Muslim communities were consulted on the pre-trial period? Where did they agree that they accepted 42 days instead of 28? Only one organisation accepted that, which was patronised with money and grants

    On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 29) shall be agreed to? Their Lordships divided: Contents, 309; Not-Contents, 118.



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