Leading article: Undesirable and unproven

Share

The prospect of 90-day detention without charge for terror suspects has made an unwelcome return to the political agenda. Three of the most senior members of the Government - Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Reid - have all indicated in recent days that they want to see a dramatic extension of the police's powers in this respect. Legislation is expected soon.

This is odd because no new justification for such an infringement of our civil liberties has emerged since the Government's failed attempt to push this draconian piece of legislation though Parliament last year. We have learnt of no instances in which the requirement for the police to charge or release a suspect within four weeks - the present limit - presented a potential danger to the public.

In the absence of any new security justification for the re-emergence of this issue, we are left with the unsavoury taste of a government exploiting the threat of terrorism for party political advantage. It is hard not to suspect that the scramble by senior ministers to profess their belief in the need for 90-day detention is an attempt to portray the Conservatives, who have consistently opposed the new police powers, as being "soft" on terrorism.

Even Lord Goldsmith, the Government's chief legal adviser, has admitted that he is not convinced of the need for 90-day detention. Lord Goldsmith is, however, in favour of granting the police new powers in other respects. He argues they should be allowed to interview suspects after they have been charged. This is a more complex proposition. Allowing for a greater degree of post-charge questioning for suspects would undoubtedly be preferable to extending their detention without charge. But it would still be undesirable.

Under the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act, a suspect cannot be interviewed after they have been charged, except under special circumstances. There is a reason for this. There is a danger that suspects can be charged with relatively minor offences and then harassed by police to admit to graver ones. We have seen in the past five years how the police have arrested people under anti-terrorism legislation but eventually charged them with unrelated immigration offences. This should serve as a warning of how new police powers introduced in the name of combating terror can be abused.

Ultimately, handing sweeping new powers to the police is not the key to thwarting terrorism in Britain. Amid the growing political clamour, we must remember that those involved in plotting to murder their fellow citizens can be brought to trial in the traditional way - and under existing laws.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The traditional Boxing Day hunt in Lacock  

For foxes' sake: Don't let the bloody tradition of the Boxing Day hunt return

Mimi Bekhechi
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all