Is 42 days dead?

by Stephen Tall on October 6, 2008

The BBC’s Nick Robinson thinks it is in spite of the Labour Government’s official denials.

The Lib Dems’ shadow home secretary Chris Huhne wrote here on Lib Dem Voice back in the summer explaining why detaining without trial terrorist suspects for 42 days was wrong both in principle and in practice:

Detention without charge for terrorist suspects has already risen from 7 days, to 14 days, to 28 days just since 1997. The sad truth is that ministers are using this simple number as a proxy to persuade the public that they are tough on terror. In fact, such blunt instruments runs the substantial risk of alienating the communities that we need on board to fight terror.

After all, the police need intelligence and witnesses prepared to give evidence. Britain’s most senior Muslim police officer, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffour, has warned that these arbitary powers could have a counter-productive effect in the Muslim community, exactly as internment did in Northern Ireland in the seventies.

The fight against terrorism is far too important to be reduced to populist symbols which would substantially curb our hard-won freedoms. This cause is central to our party’s belief in the rule of law and in checks and balances to arbitrary power.