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.
BBC News Website, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7447218.stm
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?
Views on the BBC News website (http://newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?forumID=4931&edition=1&ttl=20080611185757) beg the question, how did the pollsters come to their conclusions? I might have the answer: most of those in favor of the extension of detention without charge don’t relaise it is without charge and they also don’t realise how the new powers could potentially be used against anyone.
There’s no smoke without a fire!? See my previous posts to see that these new powers could very easily be used against normal everyday people and misused by the authorities. Servants of the people? The butler is running the mansion house.
“For the House of Commons to vote in this way is replacing the work of the Courts … The reason we put people before the courts is because they are independent – the juries independent, but if you have a vote in the House of Commons [to extend detention for suspects] is a corruption of a basic principle which we have boasted of for so many hundreds of years.”
Tony Benn former MP, 11th June 2008, speaking on BBC NEWS after the results of the vote.
37 Labour MPs joined forces with Conservative and Lib Dems to vote against the proposals was not enough to stop the Government winning the vote on extending the maximum time police can hold terror suspects to 42 days. The bill was passed by 315 MPs to 306 votes, a majority of just 9 votes.
Veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn said: “I never thought I would be in the House of Commons on the day Magna Carta was repealed.” He also called it “Bin Laden’s biggest victory”, adding that it is a “bad law, bad for us, bad for the people and for Britain’s position in the world”. He said he hoped it would be overturned in the House of Lords. Mike Blakemore of Amnesty International says the government’s concessions to win the vote on terror detentions are “essentially meaningless”.
“Only Clauses 1, 9 and 29 of the Magna Carta remain unrepealed. Clause 29 says that no freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or have his liberties removed but by lawful judgment of his peers. Detention for 42 days without trial essentially abrogates this clause and removes 800 years of a basic civil liberty: the right to due process.”
Matt Platts, Reading, UK, BBC NEWS website