It is very welcome to read of the report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, which says that there is no evidence to support an increase in the detention without charge period beyond 28 days.
Chairman Andrew Dismore MP 'said there was only one serious alleged plot where six people were held up to 28 days - three of whom were then released. "You could say, on the one hand, those three, there may have been evidence against them, but equally, were they simply being held in case something turned up?," he said.'
The committee observes that other countries facing a terrorist threat have much shorter detention periods.
It does seem remarkable that whereas throughout the Irish troubles, aside from reasonably limted periods of the enforcement of internment, the law change currently in place, let alone the suggested extension to 56 days, was not required, the Labour government think it is necessary now.
One wonders what Gordon Brown's motivation is in suggesting an extension to the 28 day period. The police aren't asking for it, say the committee. Even the 28 day period has not been used except in three cases. And the proposed allowance of interviews of suspects after charge dissolves one of the main arguments used for having the 28 day period in the first place.
So what exactly is Brown's motivation? Looking "statesmanlike"? Out-torying the Tories?
It's also worth noting that Liberty have suggested a number of measures which could be introduced instead of detention without charge, such as:
• Remove the bar on the use of intercept (phone tap) evidence because its inadmissibility is a major factor in being unable to bring charges in terror cases. Liberty welcomes the Government’s proposed Privy Council review.
• Hire more interpreters: Prioritise the hiring of more foreign language interpreters to expedite pre-charge questioning and other procedures.
• Criminalising failure to disclose encryption keys: Begin to use existing powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) which enable a civil court to require an individual to hand over an encryption key (which unlocks data on seized computers). Anyone who fails to comply with such an order will be committing a serious criminal offence.
• Add resources: More resources for police and intelligence services.
• Emergency measures in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 could be triggered in a genuine emergency in which the police are overwhelmed by multiple terror plots, allowing the Government to temporarily extend pre-charge detention subject to Parliamentary and judicial oversight.