A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

42-day detention

The 42-day detention issue is one of those where I'm in such a different paradigm to opponents of the Government's position that I actually don't even know where to start debating with them.

I just don't get why any one would want to constrain the security forces' ability to lock up and question people suspected of terrorist offences for long enough to help stop mass casualty incidents.

The worst thing that can happen is that someone spends 42 days in Paddington Green and then gets let out, apologised to, and no doubt compensated. Unpleasant for the individual but not life-threatening.

The worst things that can happen if the police don't get enough time to investigate properly and stop a terrorist incident is in the "best" case a mass-conventional casualty event like 7/7 that kills many people and maims and psychologically traumatises many more, in the worst case its far, far worse stuff involving dirty bombs or biological or chemical weapons that could cause an unimaginable human catastrophe.

Having rather a great desire to live, and not to be shredded by a nail bomb or infected with small pox or polluted with radiation on my daily commute into central London, I am rather relaxed about the police having just six weeks to chat to folks thinking of doing this to me and other Londoners with a view to stopping them doing it.

The irony that at a time when the Labour Government can't seem to do much that is popular there are a whole bunch of Labour MPs prepared to vote against their own Ministers on one of the few issues where we are wholly in tune with what the public wants is profound. I'm with the 69% of the public who support the new 42 day limit. I find their voice rather more compelling than the incessent scare-mongering and Orwellian paranoia of Shami Chakrabati.

31 Comments:

Anonymous HenryG said...

I see the Jon Cruddas and Jon Trickett are getting a bit of a bashing in the comments at www.compassonline.org.uk over his support for 42 days dention.

11:25 am, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Toby said...

Firstly, there is no evidence that 42 days is required.

Secondly, there is no evidence that detaining a person without charge would prevent an impending attack, and if such an event needed to be thwarted there would be no reason to detain without charge because a charge could be made against such a person.

Thirdly, if a person is detained without charge for six weeks the compensation of £3,000 a day would be scant compensation given that the person would be unemployed, tainted, and probably unemployable.

Fourthly, further eroding a central plank of our legal process on the basis of a Murdoch-based opinion poll is nuts.

I am yet to hear anybody explain in what circumstances detention without charge would actually be required. The whole issue could be diffused with that explanation and the absence of it leads one to conclude that it isn't required.

I am aware however that the Government attempted to detain without charge indefinitely, until deemed illegal by the Law Lords. Some of those detained subsequently had to be admitted to mental health institutions because of their treatment and the physiological torture involved in being detained without recourse to the legal process.

I appreciate your position, but neither you nor anybody else has made the case for further eroding Habeas Corpus. I shall listen to the debate in the Commons with interest though.

11:39 am, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no idea where the figure of 42 days came from but I do not see any point in extending it.

Why do the police need any longer to gather evidence against terrorists than they do to gather evidence against anyone else?

I guess it's fair enough it these people are terrorists but how many of them really are?!

In any case, I don't suppose the government will listen to the voice of the people in this wonderful 'democracy' in whuich we live!

12:53 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous MichaeC said...

"Unpleasant for the individual but not life-threatening" - Jesus wept, Luke. Imagine you are a young muslim hauled in off the street in a Kafka-esque universe where you can be held for forty days and forty nights without ever being told what you are accused of...

Would that experience make you more or less likely to be "radicalised"?!

12:55 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous tim f said...

"Some of those detained subsequently had to be admitted to mental health institutions because of their treatment and the physiological torture involved in being detained without recourse to the legal process."

The thing I don't understand the most about this debate is how come everyone gets het up about a handful of people being detained for 42 days when the unlimited detention without charge of asylum seekers and migrants (most of whom have committed no crime, some of whom have already served their sentence for crimes committed) is accepted as "necessary". It has the same effects you've mentioned, as shown by a study the Medical Foundation did at Campsfield a few years ago when they found every person was suffering mental health problems as a result of their detention without trial and without time limit.

I know that if the 42-day limit affecting a handful of people each year was extended to cover asylum seekers and other migrants often locked up for much longer, I'd support the proposals without a moment's hesitation.

1:08 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Well, Luke, if this goes through, I won;t be voting Labour next time.

Simply, I think you are wrong in principle - authoritarian and placing a false idea of 'safety' above cherished and vital civil liberties.

Sad when the Tories are more prepared to defend these than Labour.

But I am not prepared to give my vote to authoritarianism - because I am a 'small l' liberal.

1:31 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I don't "cherish and value" the liberty to plan mass murder without spending a lot of time explaining yourself to a nice man from Special Branch.

Sorry but safety is a lot more important to me. Like most people who live and work in London I went through the fear and panic of the morning of 7/7 - luckily I came in early that day and was not on the tube or bus when it all kicked off - and I want anyone suspected of wanting to do that to my city again detained for long enough to find out what they are really up to and stop them. If they turn out to be innocent then better safe than sorry.

It isn't a risk I am prepared to trade for making people feel a bit more theoretically liberated.

1:43 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Jack Ray said...

it's trivial stuff though really, isn't it? designed primarily so the Labour Party can pose as being hardline on the issue. If the security forces are too inept to surveill people they've already had in custody properly, we've got bigger problems than how long they can interrogate them for.

1:57 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

I have to agree with Michaec. Surely you agree that a person should hear what charges the authorities have levied against them.
Imagine at midnight armed police storm your house drag you out, you partner and child screaming bundle you into a van and keep you locked up for up to 42 days and you don't know what for. Your family can't visit you nor know where you are. Can you imagine what you would be feeling there? Is it not likely to make you turn viscerally against the government?

It was my understanding that MI5/Flying Squad officers were not in favour of this proposal.

As for public opinion, the majority of people want a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, renationalisation of the railway, gas and water, a full pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan and a return to capital punishment so Luke should we give them what they want?

2:11 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Darrell G said...

What a joke...we have a Labour prime minister systimatically destroying civil liberties and a Conservative one appearing at PMQ's as the defender of them....isnt this the end of any claim Labour had to be a progressive party??

Luke, if the British services are so rankly incompetant that they need 42 days then we are going to get attacked anyway. Why do the British services need 42 days when their American counterparts need only 2....why do we have to have the longest detention without charge limit in the Western world??

2:15 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous MichaeC said...

"If they turn out to be innocent then better safe than sorry".

Luke - how are you or anyone else made "more safe" by the prospect of having wrongly accused muslims thrown into jail for over a month, and coming out undersandably angry and alienated? Let alone the effect on a community that will feel itself victimised, isolated and persecuted. This makes future bombingn more likely not less!

Tackling terror means addressing the political circumstances that give rise to it. Not "theoretical liberty" - practical politics.

2:35 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Yes Luke you are in a different paradigm; the one that this illiberal and possibly failing Government is in. You said:

"The worst thing that can happen is that someone spends 42 days in Paddington Green and then gets let out, apologised to, and no doubt compensated. Unpleasant for the individual but not life-threatening."

Can I repeat 'Jesus wept'? If you can be so callous and illiberal to believe that that's your look-ou. But you are factually wrong; The worse that can happen and that will be more likely under the police state culture that this measure will hasten, is that innocent people will be rounded up, processed through a brutalised system and put through a farcical trial all on account of their colour ethnicity or accent.

Exaggeration?... even without 42 days detention, we did it to the Birmingham Six among who knows how many others... and we very recently did it on the streets of London shooting dead innocent tube passengers (dark look-alike complexion matey) and massive armed police raids on innocent residents homes (well they took up dressing in them funny robes matey).

The other reason it's no exaggeration is that as toby says, there's not a shred of credible evidence that 42 days is needed and therefore any reasonable person must doubt the motives of those who are pushing for it

2:49 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But on what basis are these people being detained? The same basis that we went to war perhaps - dodgy 'intelligence'?!

3:44 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Well, that would be you then.

4:42 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

"Having rather a great desire to live, and not to be shredded by a nail bomb or infected with small pox or polluted with radiation on my daily commute into central London"

I reckon you're more likely to get killed falling down the escalator...

My opposition is chiefly but not only based on the basis that this will break the Human Rights Act, an act which I am extremely proud of. Plus, as a believer in the rule of law, I'm not that keen on governments breaking it.

5:19 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

"Fourthly, further eroding a central plank of our legal process on the basis of a Murdoch-based opinion poll is nuts."

Even if it is popular, it doesn't make it right. I think we should only really be looking at policies which are both.

5:20 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

"I don't "cherish and value" the liberty to plan mass murder without spending a lot of time explaining yourself to a nice man from Special Branch."

That's not the freedom people are trying to defend.

This is a straw man.

The freedom people are trying to defend is the freedom of the innocent.

I don't think people would object to terrorists being locked up for any length of time.

But the point is that many of these people are bound not to be, and that the lack of a charge stops anyone finding out whether or not they actually are.

5:23 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Would you like to be locked up for 42 days without charge?

Let me tell you this Luke, for one you would lose your job, number two it might even destroy your family.

It will also create a lot of stress and you will lose 42 days of your life. Unless you can predict the future, who knows they might be your last 42 days.

There is no evidence at all that we need it and I've had it from senior police officer in Guildford who I know very well that there should be no need for 42 day detention.

So why change a law that has existed from the Magna Carta agreement. We didn't need it for the IRA and they were very organized and very well funded so why now?

It would be far better to improve relations with law abiding Muslims and to work on a way of weeding out the extremists. This act will if anything create more hostility & suspicion and make it increasing difficult to obtain information.

You must remember that MI6 has found it very difficult to infiltrate these terror cells. We need to improve this performance and the only way of doing this is to get the muslim community on board. We need Muslim M16 agents who can access these cells. How can we recruit such people if Muslims see the state as being anti Islamic or Big Brotherish.

Brown has this all wrong. I consider myself to be pro security and my tolerance of such terror cells is zero. But you can't win a war like this by just locking everyone up.

6:22 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous Dick Grimble said...

"You can tell a man that boozes by the company he chooses." Then the pig got up and slowly walked away.

Ian Paisley MP, Ann Widdecombe MP, Bob Spink MP.

They make perfect company for you.

7:38 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Darrell G said...

Outrageous result and a bad day for democracy as a whole when you can buy a vote with 30 pieces of silver...I never thought I would say this as a left-winger but I am proud of the Tory that heckled the DUP...he was quite right to question their integrity or rather lack of it in this vote....if they were so convinced of the governments case why did it take all day for this to happen??

Still it is a temporary victory and will almost certainly be thrown out by the Lords...ironic that one of the least democratic institutions in this country is now the last defender of civil liberty...i also sincerly hope that the poll bounce the government gets out of this is short lived...this whole episode has been a sad commentary on lack of progressive direction, instinct or vision of the Labour Party...

8:14 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a paradigm - it's a lovely image.

9:14 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/10/terrorism.jacquismith

9:28 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Luke - you are as wrong about this as your are right about selection in the other thread (you contrary fellow you!)

I disagree with you and others on a lot of things, but there've only been a few days when I've been truly ashamed of my government and lots of our MPs. Today is one of them.

It's a disgrace really. This has nothing to do with security. Nobody thinks this will help security; nobody's asking for this. With the various concessions this is now almost as meaningless as it is dangerous.

It is hard for a democrat like myself to be looking forward to the Lords trashing this abomination of a bill.

It is not a question of being in a different paradigm. You have presented a whole new vision set within different parameters, you've put forward a series of strawmen compounded by the occasional slippery slope. A flawed defence of a flawed proposal.

This sort of legislation makes us less safe, not more safe, and - frankly - is handing a victory to those who wish to undermine liberty and democracy; yes - we did more to attack our way of life today than terrorists could do in 100 attacks.

Pure idiocy, and for nothing but short-term political headline grabbing. Thoroughly depressing.

9:57 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

And can you see one extra person voting Labour because of this?

Yet they will lose many votes in consequence. Mine for a start.

I want to vote for a liberal, progressive party - with even the Tories looking less authoritarian, and the fact that we aren't Labour voters who financially benefit from a Labour government in any case....what reason is left to vote labour if they are doing things which one fundamentally disagrees with?

11:03 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just don't get why any one would want to constrain the security forces' ability to lock up and question people suspected of terrorist offences for long enough to help stop mass casualty incidents.

So, you believe they should have the power to detain without charge people indefnitely?

The worst thing that can happen is that someone spends 42 days in Paddington Green and then gets let out, apologised to, and no doubt compensated. Unpleasant for the individual but not life-threatening.

No, but certainly life changing. Anything longer than 14 days, and they'll certainly have lost their job. Anything more than 28 days, and they're in danger of losing their home and everything in it. You can see how a mealey-mouthed apology (if that - aren't those two Forest Hill lads still waiting for an apology from the Met?) and a little bit of compensation (after the usual legal fight and less, of course, the cost of "board and lodging" during your internment), won't be enough for someone to put their life back together.

If you were wrongly imprisoned for six weeks, lost everything you had and maybe got a reluctant sort-of apology at the end of it, and maybe after fighting and fighting and fighting maaged to wring a bit of compensation out of the government, what would you do? Might that not be exactly the sort of thing that would turn you into a terrorist?

The worst things that can happen if the police don't get enough time to investigate properly and stop a terrorist incident is in the "best" case a mass-conventional casualty event like 7/7 that kills many people and maims and psychologically traumatises many more, in the worst case its far, far worse stuff involving dirty bombs or biological or chemical weapons that could cause an unimaginable human catastrophe.

But such a thing has never happened, nor is it ever likely to happen, because the police and security services are unable to detain people for lengthy periods. In a few short years we have spiralled from three days to fourteen days to 28 days, now we're looking at 42 days and next year it'll be 90 days. None of this has made any difference to the police and the security services, except to give them the luxury of taking their time over the decision of what to charge people with.

11:05 pm, June 11, 2008

 
Anonymous tiny said...

It is after reading postings like this, Luke, that I feel there is an absolute need for the REAL Luke Akehurst to make a comeback.

5:47 am, June 12, 2008

 
Anonymous DM Andy said...

Luke, I'm utterly ashamed that a Labour Government has proposed an extension to the existing 28 days detention without charge.

I don't want to live in a country where the authorities can arrest you and keep you locked up without even charging you or letting you have your say in court.

There was a reason why Labour always voted against 7 days detention without trial. It wasn't because we're soft, it's because we believe in the rule of law not the bully-boy state.

8:00 am, June 12, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

I also think it rather strange for Luke to describe some of the opposition to the measure as Orwellian.

After all, in yesterday's debate, the Home Secretary appeared to argue that enabling the authorities to lock people up for six weeks without explaining why was designed to protect muslims from discrimination! You don't get much more Orwellian than that!

8:45 am, June 12, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like your problems debating with opponents of the measure are due to your arguments being rubbish.

9:17 am, June 12, 2008

 
Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

So ironic that yesterday I cited the Birmingham Six as an example of what goes wrong even without the draconian 42 days powers... and it later turns out that a Labour Government has to depend on using pork-barrel deals with, of all people, the Ulster Unionists to get thier nasty anti-liberty Bill through the first stage.

4:01 pm, June 12, 2008

 
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