Details missing for detention limit proposal

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Indy Politics

Details of anti-terror proposals revealed by the Government in today's Queen's Speech did not reveal what is sure to be the most controversial aspect of the new security Bill.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has given her backing to increasing the amount of time terror suspects can be questioned by police without charge - currently limited to 28 days.

But background papers to the Bill did not disclose how far ministers propose extending the limit.

The documents merely said: "The Government is currently considering options in relation to pre-charge detention in terror cases."

The previous move to increase the maximum led to former prime minister Tony Blair's first defeat in the Commons in November 2005.

It was confirmed that the new counter-terrorism Bill will also allow police to question terror suspects after they have been charged.

Currently, they cannot question arrested people about evidence which comes to light after charges are brought.

Briefing papers said the legislation would allow "adverse inferences" to be drawn by prosecutors if the suspects failed to mention something later relied on in court.

The new legislation will also seek to close a loophole in anti-terrorism laws which was revealed earlier this year.

It emerged that police are not allowed to share fingerprints or DNA samples from terrorism suspects held under control orders.

Samples from terror suspects are held separately from the National DNA Database and the information cannot be swapped with other types of investigations.

The new Bill will seek to rectify the oversight by providing data-sharing powers.

In the same vein, ministers have previously indicated they will make a "minor legislative amendment" to allow MI5 to check any DNA sample they collect under their own powers against the National DNA Database.

The forthcoming legislation will also set up a sex offender-style register to keep tabs on convicted terrorists after they have been released from prison.

These so-called "notification orders" would require released terrorists to keep police informed about any change of address or name, for example, as well as any other address he or she intends to stay at for five days or more.

Failing to do so would be a criminal offence carrying up to five years' imprisonment.

The Bill will bring in a foreign travel order which will bar convicted terrorists from travelling overseas, and include funding arrangements for protecting key sites from terrorist attack.

Ms Smith has said she hopes to publish the Bill by Christmas.

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