16 July 2007

Internment

Ken Jones, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), has been arguing for an extension of the 28 day limit on detaining suspected criminals* without charge, possibly indefinitely. He's been attempting to backtrack on this (or, "clarify what he said") so here's what he said in full, from the original source:
"We are now arguing for judicially supervised detention for as long as it takes. We are up against the buffers on the 28-day limit. We understand people will be concerned and nervous, but we need to create a system with sufficient judicial checks and balances which holds people, but no longer than a day necessary.

"We need to go there and I think that politicians of all parties and the public have great faith in the judiciary to make sure that's used in the most proportionate way possible."
Yup, no matter what judicial checks you put in place (short of an actual criminal trial), that still sounds like internment to me.

Now, the thing is, I can't remember a single instance when the police have got to the 28 day limit and released someone without charge who they felt was guilty. And none of the statements they've made have indicated a specific instance - just allusions to "the increasing complexity of investigations" or "the growing threat of terrorism". Nothing concrete, nothing real, just scaremongering in an effort to get their way (David Davis, Tory Shadow Home Secretary, is quoted as picking up on this in the BBC story).

If the terror threat really is growing, and not merely bubbling to the surface occasionally (as with the Glasgow and London scares last week), why isn't phone tap evidence be introduced into court, as the Liberal Democrats advocate? Surely, if we need to introduce new measures to tackle terrorism, we should be introducing measures which infringe on our liberties in a small way, before we introduce measures which infringe on our liberties in a big way and deprive us of our most vital liberty: freedom.
Other countries use phone-tap evidence, what's so special about the way we do that means it can't be used in court here?
Update
* Much of the press coverage has used the phrase "terror suspects", but let's call them "criminals", as that is all that they are. To me, the phrase "terror suspects" pre-judges one aspect of the argument and is a useless catch-all with negative connotations.

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