Leading article: The perils of posturing

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The Independent Online

There are reasons for that. One is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Government to come up with anything new without bumping into the limits set by the European Convention on Human Rights. The danger of constantly devising legislation in order to be seen to be doing something about terrorism is that it is likely to produce laws that are either unnecessary or offensive. Thus the proposal to outlaw the glorification of terrorism has already been dropped. To the extent that it could be effective, the law against incitement to violence already does the job.

As we report today, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, seems to be prepared to retreat over the plan to extend beyond the current two weeks the period for which terrorist suspects can be detained without trial. The police have so far come up with a weak argument for increasing it to as long as three months: it takes a long time to look for evidence on computers, apparently. Alex Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism law, is expected to propose a sensible compromise: if the police really have a good case for continuing detention, they ought to be able to make it in front of a judge in an interim hearing.

What was most shocking about Mr Blair's party conference speech was his complaint that the whole of the criminal justice system "starts from the proposition that its duty is to protect the innocent from being wrongly convicted". So, rightly, does any code of universal human rights. Who could have thought, in the heady days of the first Labour term, when the European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into British law, that it would be needed, above all, as a protection against the very Government that brought it in?

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