The case for 56 days

I know I am expected to oppose any attempt to give the police greater powers to question terrorist suspects. Apparently, as a liberal, I am supposed to "play fair", and give terrorists something of an advantage over the security services whose job it is to defend the UK. The question I have to ask is has the time has come to move the number of days that people can be detained without charge up from 28 days to 56 days ?

Across Europe, in societies that we are supposed to marvel at for their liberal sensitivities, the police have powers that far outstrip our own police when it comes to questions suspects in terrorism cases. If these societies can be liberal and have such policies, why can't we ?

People will instantly shout me down and claim that I am giving a blank ticket to the police. I am not. I believe that with checks and balances, as the government are proposing, this could be an important weapon in the police forces' armoury to fight the terrorist threat.

Nor do I believe the idiotic comments of QC Imran Khan who has claimed that this proposal would send mixed messages to Muslims, " What you are saying to the community is...we are going to batter you with legislation, we are going to arrest you, we are going to criminalise you ."

The government proposals are aimed at all terrorism, be they Russian's bringing polonium 210 in to the country, fundamentalists from the middle east or animal rights activists. The only person to tar Muslim with a brush in this whole debate is Imran Khan. Then again, a man whose name is best known for defending people who have been found guilty of some of the most evil crimes in recent years is perhaps not the best judge in any case.

Mr Khan seems unable to separate "radicals" and "terrorists" from the mass of law abiding and peaceful "muslims". This is shocking from of man of his standing and education.

Yes, I expect the Lib Dems and Tories to oppose plans for 56 days, but increasingly for me I am starting to think they may be wrong.


Anonymous said...

The telling comment is `these countries are Liberal so why can't we?`.

This country isn't really Liberal until we are elected.

Aaron said...

There are a couple of problems with your assumptions here nich :
* When BNP bigots are caught with explosives and weapons, they weren't detained without charge for a day - when innocent muslims are accused falsely they are detained without charge for weeks, there aren't any examples of this detention being used against anyone but muslims.
* Do you really think you and your family could manage for 56 days before police are forced to release you without charge? Why do think anybody else can?

It's not about being fair to terrorists - it's about being fair to the people who aren't terrorists - have you any idea what percentage of those arrested under new terrorism laws are actually charged with terrorist offenses - I'll give you a clue - you don't need all your fingers to count to it.

Reading your blog, I'm wondering why you joined the Party - do you support any liberal principles at all - are you sure you wouldn't be happier in the authoritarian parties like New Labour or Newer Conservatives?

Norfolk Blogger said...

Aaron, since you hide your blogger ID so that nobody can see who you are, we'll simply have to guess at your Liberal credentials.

I joined the party in 1991, I'm no Johnny come lately to the party. I've acted as agent on numerous occasions and got more Lib Dem councillors elected, many from 3rd or 4th place than most people will manage in a lifetime and I've worked my socks off for years and years and years knocking on doors and foregoing a social life in order to help turn North Norfolk from a very safe Tory seat in to a safe Lib Dem one.

Please don't lecture me on what party I should be in.

Aaron Trevena said...


I didn't deliberately hide my ID, I just lazily used the blogger one with an empty profile instead of putting info in manually - my bad.

Let me see, I've been a card carrying member for about 4 years. I've dipped my hand into my wallet frequently to pay for other people's campaigning, leadership elections, etc. I've also signed numerous forms to allow local liberal candidates to stand for council, etc.

Obviously that's not a huge ammount of campaigning, but I lean towards policy being more important than bums on seats - if a councillor is lazy, not very good, or a tory wearing a yellow lib dem badge, I don't consider that to be good for the party or area.

I tend to campaign outside of party politics on specific issues that I know well, such as civil liberties, drug liberalisation, technology and security - I joined the party because I thought it stood for most of these things in a sane way, but so far it's absorbed more of my time and cash that could have acheived better results outside of the liberal democrats.

I actually would like to get more involved in my local party but unless you happen to have the ability to spend lots of time raising money with local activists there isn't much interest in what you are doing are saying.

The party political stuff is all good and well, but where is the Liberal stuff , which liberal principles do you actually support? And which illiberal policies do you oppose?

I haven't anything Liberal espoused on your blog to date. Local community stuff - yes, doing a great job. Party political stuff - dandy. Liberalism - I'm not finding any.

youdontknowme said...

How can you be in favour of these. these suspected terrorists are just that - they are suspected of being involved in terrorism. they have never been found guilty in a court of law and if the security services thought they were guilty they should send them to trial.

The state should never have the power to hold you without charge.

Norfolk Blogger said...

In my years of campaigning I have found the Lib Dems to be a very broad church, ranging from people who are more socialist than Labour ever were to more Conservative than Maggie Thatcher.

I think you need to accept that a party is a coalition of views.

My liberal principles resonate more with the party's views on equality (racial/sexual/secual preference) and opposition to ID cards (if you did a search on my blog you would find enough about ID cards).

Aaron Trevena said...

Hi Nich,

Ah ha! So you are a liberal, Good show - it's just the recent topics that have shown an authoriatarian side. Has somebody been switching your grauniad for the Daily Mail or something ;)

Anyway - how about providing some justification for the recent illiberal stuff : there doesn't seem to be any justification based on facts for either further criminalising soft drugs or detaining without charge for longer. Any evidence for such things would be very interesting and worth reading.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I have to say that my anecdotal evidence about drug use around the area where I work (council estate in Norwich) is that drug use has been legitimised by the downgrading of cannabis. I argued that I thought there may be some justification for the return of the drug to category B. I think we all have to judge things on an anecdotal basis, but when The Independent, who long argued for the decriminalisation of Cnnabis too has changed its tune, I am not alone.

Is it liberal to legitimise health risks ?

As for 56 days, I argued something of a case for it. I could ahve done so more wholeheartedly because I am not yet fully convinced, although I am sure that more needs to be done. I think Nick Clegg was corret on the enws earlier to ask again why the government are not willing to use intercept evidence in court, you could argue this is a further erosion of civil liberties, but again it depends who you argue the point with.

Aaron Trevena said...

Oh do keep up Nich ;)

The independant did *another* u-turn after it turned out the super-skunk danger was hogswash, and that there isn't any scientific evidence behind the current cannabis mental health myths see my journal : http://hashbangperl.livejournal.com/30340.html
or jocks.

Tristan said...

Those european countries are far from liberal. They're mostly socialist or social-democratic. Apart possibly from the Netherlands.

It is liberal to as you put it 'legitimise health risks' because it is not the governments place to protect people from their own actions.
The crime and violence associated with drug use is a product of the prohibition - which is an illiberal policy.

As for detention without trial for any amount of time - its abhorrent.
"Those who'd give up liberty for temporary security deserve neither."

Cllr David Morton said...

Your comparison with European juristictions with longer detention powers is a fair one. However a better one would be the Common Law democracies and we already have the longest detention. Far longer than the US who have made no attempt to raise there limit despite 9/11.

You refer to "terrorists" in your first paragraph when of course at that point they would have only beene detained, they wouldn't have even been charged let alone convicted of anything.

Finally your comments on Imran Khan are the cheapest type of ad hominie abuse. By definition some defence lawyers will occassionally defend guilty people.

The party is indeed a broad church and a belief in 56 day detention I'm sure is not unique. I'm just agog that you can trample over Habeus Corpus, the presumption of Innocence and, Dear God, the right to a defence lawyer all in one blog post.

Tim Worstall said...

"Across Europe, in societies that we are supposed to marvel at for their liberal sensitivities, the police have powers that far outstrip our own police when it comes to questions suspects in terrorism cases. If these societies can be liberal and have such policies, why can't we ?"

A society can be liberal in some aspects and illiberal in others. I would claim that a society (like France for example) which might hold terrorist "suspects" in jail for five years before their charging and trial is illiberal. I would claim that one where the State ha to prove that they do indeed have a case before remanding into custody (our system) is the liberal one.