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On the progress of the UK’s Terrorism Bill

Posted by James Hammerton @ 9:33 pm on 24 November, 2005.
Categories democracy and the rule of law.
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The Terrorism Bill has now reached the committee stage in the House of Lords, having passed its second reading.

Proposals to allow the police to hold terrorist suspects for upto 90 days without charge were defeated in the Commons, with the Blair government suffering its first defeat since being elected in 1997. However, the Commons accepted an amendment to hold the suspects for upto 28 days without charge, doubled from the time limit that came into force in 2004.

The offences of incitement and glorification of terrorism, raised as a concern by Spy blog, and this blog, remain however.

Clearly, despite the government’s defeat, this bill still represents yet another assault on civil liberties and is likely to do so even once the Lords have dealt with it.

Regarding the 90 days detention, Andy Hayman, the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police sent this letter to Charles Clarke outlining the case for the extended detention. The letter was often cited by those who supported the measure. Spy.org.uk have demolished his case here.

It seems to me that, given the numerous broad and vaguely defined offences available in existing British legislation, ranging from membership of a proscribed organisation to possessing information useful to someone who wishes to carry out acts of terrorism, it is highly unlikely that after 14 days, the police would not be able to charge anyone they have genuine reason to believe is involved in terrorism with something. Once charged with an initial offence, the suspect could be detained and questioned whilst they build a case for more serious offences.

There is also nothing to stop someone being quickly re-arrested if new evidence arrives or to keep that person under constant surveillance. And all this is without considering the use of control orders. Quite simply, the state already has more than enough legal weaponry for dealing with terrorists.

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