One of the many concessions that the Government had to put in the Counter Terrorism Bill is for Parliament to take the decision in a case to extension without charge.
Firstly, the home secretary needs to be satisfied there is a “grave exceptional terrorist threat”. Secondly, top prosecutors and police issue a report setting out why they need the power. Once the home secretary signs the order, she must inform Parliament within two days and both houses must approve the move. The special powers for 42-day detention are only available to the home secretary for 30 days, after which she must reapply for the powers. Even while she has these powers, each suspect will be able to challenge any application to hold them beyond 28 days in front of a judge.
This sounds like a good safeguards which would guarantee proper checks and balances against arbitrary treatment. The Telegraph’s legal editor, Joshua Rosenberg, clarified the exact process in an interview just on BBC News:
The Home Secretary has to lay an order before Parliament. It’s not as complicated as people think, because she [the Home Secretary] doesn’t have to persuade Parliament that there’s this grave, exceptional terrorist threat; all she needs to get is a request from the Director of Public Prosecutions and a Chief Constable, or equivalent … , and then she can make The Order and then it survives, even if Parliament votes [against it], for at least a few days … Once the order is granted, the police can detain any number of people while the order is still in force for up to 42 days.
So Parliament will be given the information it needs to vote responsibly on the case?
… the intention is that Parliament will not be given the sort of information about individual cases that some people seem to be expecting, because … if that was made public that would prejudice a forthcoming trial. So, there’s no need for that information …
Pardon? This means that absolute trust must be placed in as few as three people for the liberty of ‘any number of people’. Is this right and fair?