Daniel Brennan: Restraint must be part of the fight against terrorism

From a speech by the QC at an Ashurst seminar at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London
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The Independent Online

How does the balance stand between the need for security and the need to preserve fundamental freedoms? Under the Terrorism Act 2000, there have been 544 arrests; 98 individuals have been charged; six have been cautioned for other criminal matters; 27 are on police bail; 54 are in the care of the Immigration Service; and six have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Thus 289 have been released without charge.

In the USA an exotic example of far-reaching powers is that provided for under the Patriot Act and described colloquially as Operation Tips (Total Information awareness Programme). This was the basis under which librarians were required to report issuing "suspicious" material. There has also been talk of a criminal offence, as apparently applies in France, of "associating with known terrorists".

Where is all this going? Democracy depends on the rule of law. Both depend on respect for the rule of law, acknowledging the dignity of human beings, and the need to preserve institutions and laws which are above and superior to terrorist or criminal behaviour. It is inevitable that the authorities of any country will seek to produce what they consider to be the most effective anti-terrorist laws.

To question particular proposals in a proposed or actual law against terrorism is not to dissent from its general objective. To call for restraint does not in any way involve lack of resolve in the fight against terrorism. At the end of all our considerations must be the determination to preserve the rule of law, no matter how difficult that is.

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