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David Davis makes the case against a longer period of pre-charge detention

Highlights below.  Full speech here.

"Today there are essentially two arguments to deal with. The first is, has the government made its case for 42 days? If not, then this change should be rejected out of hand, because you do not give away freedom without good cause. Secondly, if it has made its case, are the powers proportionate, and are the checks and balances to prevent both improper use of the powers and injustices adequate?"

"For almost 800 years, we have built on the right of habeas corpus founded in that ancient document the fundamental freedom from arbitrary detention by the state.  The liberty of the person is in our blood, part of our history, part of our way of life.  Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Democratic Unionists and other parties.  Liberty is the common strand that binds us together.  We have shed blood to protect it, both abroad and at home. Today, the government asks us to sacrifice some of that liberty.'

"Let us start with the Home Secretary’s own witnesses.  Witness number one, Sir Iain Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.  In his evidence to Parliament, the Commissioner said explicitly ‘We have never put forward a case that there is evidence of a need for an extension.’  He based his support for 42 days on a ‘pragmatic inference’, based on trends in the number of plots and their complexity.  In support of that, he and his counter terrorism chief initially claimed that there had been 15 terrorist plots thwarted since the 7/7 bombing."  It was on that basis he presented his evidence to the Bill Committee.  But then it transpired there had been a mistake.  The corrected evidence revealed the true picture which is that between 2003 and 2005 there were 9 plots and 4 since the beginning of 2006.  So far from increasing the number of plots has decreased over the last 3 years.  Mr Deputy Speaker, that is a good thing.  But it is not an argument for more powers."

"The second witness in support of an increase in detention without charge is Mr Peter Clarke.  As was argued in the 90 day debate, he told us how complex and technical anti-terror cases were becoming.  His example of a technically challenging case was Dhiren Barot.  There is no doubt it was technically challenging, but a case in which charges were successfully brought inside 14 days is hardly evidence that we need three times that long.  Mr Clarke offered the observation that in the Barot case, police officers had occasion to sleep at the office.  Frankly, I would prefer that police officers sleep at the office for two weeks than risk putting  innocent people in a cell for 6 weeks.".

"Mr Deputy Speaker, Ministers now say they will pay compensation in cases where innocent people are detained for longer than 28 days.  Could we ever have a more explicit admission of the inevitable failure of this law?  Or the foreseeable injustices it will bring?  It is for this House to search its conscience to determine whether putting in place a system of six weeks detention in which on current experience half or more are likely to prove innocent will serve the vital interests of either national security or British justice."

"Mr Deputy Speaker, it has also been suggested that an extension to 42 days is necessary to protect the public from danger.  That releasing people at 28 days will put the public at risk.  So the House should know that both of those individuals charged at the end of the period of 28 day detention were subsequently released on bail which no court would allow if they posed an ongoing threat to public safety.  Mr Deputy Speaker, the Home Secretary reminds us time and again that she is responsible for national security.  She stresses this responsibility.  The Home Secretary must take advice from all members of our law enforcement agencies.  But she must check it.  She must ask questions.  She must establish the facts.  That is her responsibility. And as the evidence in favour of extending pre-charge detention has evaporated under scrutiny it has been replaced with growing evidence that prolonging pre-charge detention risks making us less - not more - safe.  The former Chief Inspector of Constabulary described it as a ‘propaganda coup’ for Al-Qaida  A gift to ‘propagandists’ that will drive the brainwashed to ‘acts of martyrdom’ according to one former Metropolitan Police Commissioner.  And a threat to local community intelligence according to the government’s own impact assessment."

"There is nobody in this House who does not feel horror at the loss of life, the terror, the pain and the mutilation faced by the victims of terrorism.  But two wrongs do not make a right.  Least of all if what we do is ineffective, unnecessary, or even counter-productive.  I have no sympathy for terrorists whatsoever, but I want the House to imagine for a moment what if feels like if you are innocent under this regime. You are taken from your bed in the early hours of the morning.  You are locked in a cell for 6 weeks – 1000 hours – and you do not know why – not what you are accused of, not what the suspicions are, not what the evidence is.  You do not know what is happening to your job.  You do not know what is happening to your reputation.  You do not know what is happening to your wife and the neighbours.  You do not know what is happening to your children, facing sometimes the harsh cruelty of other children.  You do not know this for six weeks – 1000 hours."

"So what we have is the worst of all worlds.  A symbolic assault on liberty which is unnecessary.
A change in the law which is counter-productive.  And a procedure which is unworkable.  Isn’t the only way to describe what the government is proposing today is that it is ineffective authoritarianism?”"


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