LDV readers vote for 14 days detention without charge

by Stephen Tall on January 31, 2008

For the last fortnight, we’ve had a poll running asking, “How many days should we permit detention without charge?”

In total, 69% of you reckoned this should be 14 days or fewer, compared with Labour’s full-throated support for 42 days to deal with “hypothetical” situations.

Here are the results in full:
• 14 days, as before Blair: 37% (165)
• Fewer than 14 days: 32% (144)
• 28 days, as Blair got: 19% (85)
• 90 days, as proposed by Blair: 9% (40 votes)
• 42 days, as proposed by Brown: 3% (13)
Total Votes: 447. 12th-31st January, 2008

Here’s what Nick Clegg has to say about extending the period of detention without charge:

The obsession with 42 days is undermining, not supporting, the battle against terrorism. Ministers are taking their reliance on hypothetical examples to new lengths as they attempt to cover up for the complete lack of genuine evidence for such a move. Gordon Brown himself says that the key objective in combating terrorism is winning over hearts and minds. How can he possibly then justify a measure like extending pre-charge detention which will do so much to alienate people?”

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Given that 14 days is still much longer than nearly every other country… what does this say about Britain, and political attitudes in Britain?

Have we in Britain, the cradle human rights, now thrown the baby out with the bathwater?

by Woodpecker on January 31, 2008 at 12:32 pm. Reply #

I thought it was Blair who brought in the 14 days limit, in 2001? The much reviled Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, which I recall the annual row over Parliament renewing throughout my childhood, set the limit at 7 days.

Back in the 80s, people used to regularly abuse Thatcher for imposing a police state. The Criminal Justice Act 1994 was supposed to be the scariest infringement of civil liberties in a century. It’s sad that we are losing our capacity to even imagine a less authoritarian world.

by James Graham on January 31, 2008 at 1:23 pm. Reply #

The Criminal Justice Act 1994 was supposed to be the scariest infringement of civil liberties in a century.

But isn’t that just the point James? The Criminal Justice Act of 1994 can’t have been that scary because . . . well I can’t even remember what the hell was in it, and we’re all still alive aren’t we? At least some of the time?

by Laurence Boyce on January 31, 2008 at 3:27 pm. Reply #

I’ll happily admit that most of the Worst Legislation Ever scare stories have ended up falling wide of the mark. I have a book about Section 28 from the late 80s which is somewhat laughable in its predictions (and particularly laughable by how unselfconsciously homophobic its contributors were).

But most of these bad pieces of legislation have tended end up damp squibs because most of the time both the state and the police behave in a restrained manner. For example under the 1994 CJA it is illegal to “use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” or “display any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting” that causes “harassment, alarm or distress”. This could of course mean pretty much mean anything, which is why it is rarely used. When you have laws like that, the law becomes totally arbitrary and at the whim of individual police officers.

The CJA came into force after one of the main thing it was supposed to crack down on – the rave scene – had long been commercialised. They didn’t arrest many people partying in fields because that was so 1992.

It did however pave the way for the DNA database and the restrictions on the right to protest.

This salami slice approach to civil liberties is bad news precisely because every step seems so minor, so reasonable sounding and that the scare stories never seem to come true. That’s what I mean by us losing our capacity to imagine a less authoritarian world.

We should remember that the moral of the Boy Who Cried Wolf was that the wolf ended up being real after all.

But then, seeing as you enjoy boasting about how much love all that stuff, I doubt you’d mind even if it was more blatant than it is.

by James Graham on January 31, 2008 at 4:26 pm. Reply #

Disappointing. “Less than 14 days” is the only thing worth having.

by Asquith on January 31, 2008 at 4:56 pm. Reply #

Where is Nick on reducing from 28 (back) down to 14. People lost sight of the bigger picture in March 2005 that the “victory” over 90 days actually masked a doubling of the detention limit.

“Have we in Britain, the cradle human rights, now thrown the baby out with the bathwater?”

Cradle of human rights? The Americans had a constitutional guarantee on freedom of speech since 1777(ish :-). We still had the Lord Chamberlain vetoing plays because they had the sound of toilets flushing until the 1960s (which is why Peter Cook set up the Establishment Club as a private club though that is perhaps another story 🙂

by Hywel Morgan on January 31, 2008 at 5:57 pm. Reply #

I think cradle is a fair enough term. It’s just that we turfed the kid out on the street when it was just learning to walk.

by James Graham on January 31, 2008 at 6:00 pm. Reply #

This salami slice approach to civil liberties . . .

Ah yes . . . the slippery slope . . . the thin end of a wedge . . . the frog in a pot . . . [that’s enough metaphors – Ed]

by Laurence Boyce on January 31, 2008 at 8:39 pm. Reply #

I did notice that “LabourHome’s” poll started at the same two days as for other criminal investigations. I have a feeling that the two days remained the limit but that a magistrate could grant an order to hold for five more under terrorism legislation. I would have preferred to vote for that. It respects Habeas Corpus much better and I see no reason why police and investigators should not be forced to justify their detention of anyone beyond a bare minimum in every single case.

by Jock on February 2, 2008 at 11:44 am. Reply #

The problem is how often do magistrates turn down applications for extensions? The threshold is pretty low. How long were the “Newham two” detained for?

by Hywel Morgan on February 2, 2008 at 3:09 pm. Reply #

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