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Forty two days detention: scandal or sensible

Confidential is divided over the government's latest narrow victory in Parliament

Published on June 12th 2008.

Forty two days detention: scandal or sensible

Forty two days detention without charge for suspected terrorists. Last night the government got the decision it wanted with a little help (and bent incentives) from the Democratic Unionists. It was an odd victory because thirty six Labour backbenchers revolted and the House of Lords will presently vote it out or amend it so much that the police can never effectively use the measure. Then it will return to the House of Commons and the process will have to be very uncertainly repeated for the government.

As Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats said, “Why is he [Gordon Brown] playing politics with our liberties for a bill that no one thinks is necessary, no one thinks will work in practice and everyone knows will never reach the statute book?” It's an interesting set of questions. Perhaps the PM is determined to show the public he is a strongman who understands the public mood in the battle aginst terrorism. He would argue that many many people, including the police, think this measure is necessary.

We're split in the Confidential office over the forty two days.

The editor thinks the idea is a a scandal unworthy of Britain, a blow against freedom, likely to damage the country's reputation and play into the hands of those with an axe to grind against liberal democracy. The publisher thinks it's necessary to combat potential terrorists and safeguard the nation: in other words a price worth paying.

How do our readers feel about this? Are you pro or anti forty two days detention without charge?

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

RowJune 12th 2008.

Of terrorist attacks that have already taken place, exactly which of them would have been prevented "if only" the 42 days rule had been in place?And yes - can anyone tell us what these extra days are actually for? What will they do in this time that they are currently unable to do? Is this a question of insufficient resources, or is it simply an intimidation tactic?

DescartesJune 12th 2008.

Hm, So you can be taken, held without charge and not told what your accused of for forty two days now? Enough time lose your job, make everyone you know notice you're not there, and completely destroy your life. No other police force worldwide need that long to do their job. What is it with the UK? I really hope the Lords block this absolutely insane piece of legislation. Thanks Gordon, and welcome to 1984 everyone :)

eugeneJune 12th 2008.

bloody labour are scum...i am sick to death of them railroading the voters (who put them where they are to REPRESENT them and their views), and ignoring their opinions and turning this country into a nanny state. 'Stand up for y(our) rights# has never been such an important phrase. Get a letter written, sign a petition, and kick em out before they can inflict any more damage on this great country.Former Labour Supporter

LeeJune 12th 2008.

It's insane, we have sofhisticated survellance methods which should allow, a) enough evidence to be gathered before some one is arrested to charge them and b) to keep tabs on them if not enough evidence has been gathered by the time they have to be released. If government initiatives like tagging offenders actually worked (and I know it would be an infringement to be tagged without having commited any crime, but surely less so than being imprisoned)then this could be used. AS this doesn't work, what makes us think that giving them more days will? I don't know much about it, but how many of the people held under the existing legislation have been charged and convicted in the end? Were the 7/7 or Glasgow bombers under surveillance at any time?

SteJune 12th 2008.

It is absolutely abhorrent that an issue of such fundamental importance to our basic human rights can be resolved on the basis of petty party politics, the survival of gordon brown, and the buying off of the ulster unionists. The message this sends out to the rest of the world alone is enough to make you cry. Britain is the only country in the civilised world where the executive can get away with such outragous abuse of power. We live in an elective dictatorship and the people do absolutely rock all about it. The French have their faults and the Americans have the shame of Guantanamo, but both those peoples would never accept this!

AnonJune 12th 2008.

Interesting that the six who have posted so far are all, like me, against the legislation, when the media keep telling us that public opinion is generally in favour of 42 days...

JoelJune 12th 2008.

I don't really understand why the extra days are needed. It seems like a completely arbitrary figure to me. Presumably if there are grounds to hold someone in the first place, they should have at least some kind of evidence or inkling.Is it just that the extra days needed are to cover up the lack of efficiency / resources available to the police.. or is there some genuine requirement?I'm all for locking up terrorists, but without some statistical evidence or otherwise to back up the necessity claims, I'm unconvinced

Paul MJune 12th 2008.

Check today's Metro, Page 4. List of other major countries and their maximum "suspected terrorist" detention periods. Even China is less than us - most EU countries are under one week.Either our police are so inept it takes them that long to charge a suspect, or we have a uniquely organised and motivated terrorist threat in the UK.Neither of the above is true, so the stark reality is that this is just pure politics. Middle-England vote winning from a desperate leadership.It's a sad day when civil liberties are decimated purely for political gain. As Tony Benn pointed out; these rights were enshrined in the Magna Carta - have we regressed a thousand years?Paul "Disgusted" Madley.

JohnJune 12th 2008.

Ste, would those French who have their faults by any chance be the same ones that sent a team of French commandos to blow up The Rainbow Warrior when Greenpeace attempted to disrupt atomic bomb testing?

NikJune 12th 2008.

Does anyone remember the Guildford 4 and Birmingham 6 and the reason this the beginnings of this was rushed in, in the first place? Panic over terrorism, causing the ruination of innocent lives. Or are those miscarriages of justice far enough away now in public memory for people just to forget?

Mancunian exile living in SalfordJune 12th 2008.

This is nothing short of a scandal.MI5 didn't request this.42 days is way beyond what a lot of other countries actually do.It met so much opposition in the Commons that it looks like the government brokered some sort of deal with the DUP to secure the extra votes it needed to get this through.And what are the extra days actually needed for, above and beyond what the original limit was?No, don't agree with this one bit. If you couldn't already tell.

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