In Canada It's 1 Day, in the USA, South Africa and New Zealand 2 Days, in Ireland 7 Days and Australia 12 Days. So Why Does OUR Government Want to Lock People Up without Charge for ... OUTRAGE: The Bombed Bus in Tavistock Square on July 7, 2005

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 6, 2008 | Go to article overview
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In Canada It's 1 Day, in the USA, South Africa and New Zealand 2 Days, in Ireland 7 Days and Australia 12 Days. So Why Does OUR Government Want to Lock People Up without Charge for ... OUTRAGE: The Bombed Bus in Tavistock Square on July 7, 2005


Byline: FRANK DOBSON

TERRORISM is a very real threat to British lives. It is also a threat tothe British way of life. Dictators can do anything they like to crack down onterrorism.

Their people don't have any rights and liberties in the first place. But anopen, democratic society like ours is faced with a major dilemma.

Just how far do we go in giving the authorities extra powers over our lives?How many rights and liberties should we sacrifice in the effort to counterterrorism? The Government wants to extend detention without charge beyond thepresent limit of 28 days.

I understand why Ministers have proposed this. They feel they will beresponsible if things go wrong and people are killed.

I have good reason to share their concerns.

The July 7 bomb outrages on the London Underground at Russell Square and on thebus in Tavistock Square were both in my constituency.

But I am opposed to going beyond the 28-day limit. It is wrong in principle andwould be counter-productive in practice.

In recent times, a lot of attention has been paid to what it means to beBritish. Well, one thing it means is that we British don't allow police orpoliticians to lock up people for a long time before charging them.

This is not some trendy bit of political correctness. It was laid down in MagnaCarta in 1215 and has been followed in the Englishspeaking democracies eversince.

In Canada, the maximum is just one day. In the USA, South Africa and NewZealand it is two days, in Ireland seven days and in Australia 12 days..

YET the Government claims a further extension beyond 28 days is necessarybecause antiterrorist investigations can take a long time.

However, other people equally involved and equally well informed, includingsenior police officers and the Director of Public Prosecutions, believe thatthe current limit is quite long enough.

We have already changed the law so that terrorists can be charged with lesseroffences related to terrorism or refusing to disclose ciphers or computerpasswords. They can be charged later with more serious offences.

Also, the threshold for deciding that a suspect should be charged has beenlowered. In the past, there had to be greater than a 50- 50 prospect ofsecuring a conviction for a prosecution to go ahead, but that figure has beenrelaxed.

And the Government has now accepted the proposal I made some years ago that thelaw should be changed to permit terror suspects to be questioned after theyhave been charged.

All these sensible changes strengthen the hands of the police. Yet theGovernment now proposes to allow the Home

Secretary - not in a national crisis, but in the case of an individual suspect- to sanction detention for longer than 28 days without charge on the say-so ofthe police and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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In Canada It's 1 Day, in the USA, South Africa and New Zealand 2 Days, in Ireland 7 Days and Australia 12 Days. So Why Does OUR Government Want to Lock People Up without Charge for ... OUTRAGE: The Bombed Bus in Tavistock Square on July 7, 2005
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