Wednesday, 11 June 2008

24 hours from Tulsa, 42 days from decency

Gene Pitney has, I think, the better of the comparison - at least having the decency to apologise and to admit to being in the wrong.

42 days detention without charge - I remember the days when we would tut-tut at countries holding suspects without charge, when we would shake our heads and mutter something like "how is that acceptable in a civilised world?"

There have been arguments put forward that terrorism cases these days are complicated and police need time to investigate them.

Other cases are also complicated and require the same level of work (effort and intensity) from police officers. Fraud cases are at least as complicated these days, as is online crime, and murder investigations are becoming more and more complicated. In each of these cases the police have six hours from the time of your detention to charge you.

Six hours - one quarter of Mr Pitney's journey - rather than six weeks.
The outcome of today's vote is that you or I or anyone else justly or unjustly suspected of being involved in terrorist activities can be held without charge for 168 times as long as you could be held without charge if they suspected you of genocide or rape or serial murders.

Of course, in the case of you being accused of any of those offences, the police could apply to the court for a further period of detention in order to investigate the offence - like any other crime. I'm not sure what evidence they would have to provide, perhaps m'learned friend could advise, but I assume that there would have to be a good reason proffered for holding you beyond the six hours.

There has also been the reasoning put forward that keeping suspected terrorists detained can help to prevent their crimes taking place - Crimestop in Oceania.

Our legal system, however, disdains prophylaxis in favour of the liberty and rights of the individual. We protect our legal and civil rights by circumscribing the power of the constabulary to interfere in our lives. That's why the usual period of detention is six hours.

Rather than agreeing to an extension of the time allowed for detention without charge, MPs should have been arguing for its reduction from the standing seven days to the standard six hours.

There has been a dis-service done today, not just to those who may find themselves unjustly detained without charge for six weeks, but also to our justice system. An unfairness has been introduced which it is in the interests of all of us to have removed.

For ease of reference, this is the definition of a terrorist offence as laid down in the Terrorism Act 2000:

1 Terrorism: interpretation
(1) In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where—
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.

(2) Action falls within this subsection if it—
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

(4) In this section—
(a) “action” includes action outside the United Kingdom,
(b) a reference to any person or to property is a reference to any person, or to property, wherever situated,
(c) a reference to the public includes a reference to the public of a country other than the United Kingdom, and
(d) “the government” means the government of the United Kingdom, of a Part of the United Kingdom or of a country other than the United Kingdom.

(5) In this Act a reference to action taken for the purposes of terrorism includes a reference to action taken for the benefit of a proscribed organisation.

1 comment:

Your Learned Friend said...

Six hours it is in Scotland - except in terrorist cases.

There is no scope for the authorities to continue to detain beyond six hours unless you charge. You can't apply to the Sheriff for an extension. Six hours is what they have got.

Under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights "Everyone arrested or detained... shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial..."

The UK has had its hands slapped several times already in relation to this article and had to make a derogation in 1989 from provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts.

Guilty of good old treason?

Only six hours to charge in Scotland.

So, Go For It...