MPs renew 28 days detention for terrorist suspects

July 9, 2009 at 8:24 pm Leave a comment

by Amy Bourke

The controversial terrorism bill that extends the maximum period of detention of terrorist suspects from 14 to 28 days was today renewed by MPs.

To date, 11 individuals have been held for more than 14 days on pre-charge detention.

As a result of what happened in that 14-day period, six of those 11 were held for the maximum of 27 to 28 days.

But three of these were released without charge, and in the past two years, nobody has been held beyond 14 days.

David Hanson, the Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism said: “The fact that the power has not been used for two years does not mean that in difficult, trying circumstances where terrorist activity could have been commissioned or undertaken, we would not need it again.”

The Shadow Minister for Police Reform, Mr David Ruffley, warned that the Conservatives’ position on 28 days could yet change.

He said: “When we debated the last such order, the Government were in the midst of attempting to increase the pre-charge detention limit to 42 days. Having failed to convince the House of the case for 90 days, they then failed to convince Members of another place of the case for 42 days.”

He added: “The fact that we are here again debating an extension of the application of the 28-day limit reflects the fact that these matters are not set in concrete.

“The fact that the extension must be renewed annually reflects the fact that it is an exceptional power. Although we will not oppose the order, the Government should be aware that the consensus on 28 days is not in any way unconditional.”

Lembit Ӧpik MP (Montgomeryshire, LD) said that it had been “pretty much unequivocally proved that detention without trial was a recruiting sergeant for terrorism”, using Northern Ireland as an example.

His comparison was shot down by Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North, DUP) who said: “There is a difference between indefinite detention without trial—as it applied in Northern Ireland and the measure before the House, which retains 28 days with all the safeguards and so on.

“Whatever other points may be made, it is a bit invidious to make that comparison, because the two things are not the same at all.”

The Government have undertaken a review of the impact of all counter-terrorism legislation on communities, and will publish a research report by late November 2009.

Andrew Dismore MP, the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, called for this review to be extended to the psychological impact of 28 days pre-charge detention on individuals.

A clause in the original Terrorism Act 2006 stated that the 28 days legislation has to be renewed by MPs yearly.

This week, London commemorated the fourth anniversary of the terrorist bombings on the transport network in which 52 people died.

The threat of a terrorist attack remains severe.

The Home Secretary Alan Johnson was absent from the debate as he was in Manchester.

Neither the Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling or Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Grieve spoke in the debate.

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