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Roy Wilson: Will the world as we know it end with an extra 14 days?

Roy Wilson, a Conservative activist with professional experience in law and security, asks why Eliza Manningham-Buller and others see 42 days detention as so different in principle to 28 days.

Baroness Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, was said to have very much helped Davis in his campaign for the rejection of 42 days detention, by her speech to the House of Lords when she stated that someone detained for 42 days, an increased from 28 days, would not or might not get a fair trial because of the extra days under the proposal and that she was against it.  Yet many are charged and in custody for many months before their trial is heard.

An example: Yasin Omar was arrested on the 27th July, 2005 suspected of terrorist offences together with five others. Charged ten days later and detained in custody till trial.  Trial 28th August 2006. Pleaded not guilty; detained in custody; trial adjourned and completed 9th July 2007 - nearly two years later.  Found guilty, sentenced to life.  As far as I am aware she didn't complain that he and his accomplices did not receive a fair trial (although to be fair the judge did complain that it took too long to be concluded).

Libertarians expel much hot air on telling us that we are draconian in detaining prisoners without charge and no other country does it. In Italy, three suspects have been detained without charge since last November, believed to have been implicated in the murder of the British student Miss Kercher.  Next September the prosecution will ask the presiding judge to have them charged. They will either be charged or released after at least nine months - if charged the case will not be held till next year.  On the former head of MI5's reckoning: it wont be a fair trial.

When Tony Macnulty said that Manningham-Buller did not have any experience of interrogating suspect terrorists he was correct - it was not her job. Two other former members of M15 have disagreed with her, but have not received the same publicity. On 10th September 2005, she spoke to an audience in the Netherlands about the 7/7 London bombings. The whole speech is an interesting read. Below are a couple of paragraphs taken from the speech - not in sequence:

“I think that this is a central dilemma, how to protect our citizens within the rule of law when intelligence does not amount to clear cut evidence and when it is fragile. We also, of course, and I repeat in both our countries and within the EU value civil liberties and wish to do nothing to damage these hard-fought for rights. But the world has changed and there needs to be a debate on whether some erosion of what we all value may be necessary to improve the chances of our citizens not being blown apart as they go about their daily lives. Another dilemma.

The attacks in London were a shock, and my Service and the police were disappointed that we had not been able to prevent them. But we were not altogether surprised because of our understanding of the threat which is what I wish to discuss next, although in some ways it feels unnecessary to describe it. We have seen so many manifestations of it both before 9/11, for example in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and since then in Casablanca, Madrid and Bali and many other places as well of course as here in the Netherlands.

It is also important that governments ensure intelligence and security agencies and the police have appropriate and effective legal powers and the resources to maximise the chances of success. My government has given to my Service and the police very public support since the attacks, understanding as it does that there is no such thing as complete security."

However, she is not now supporting police in the request for an extension of detention.  It would appear in her opinion that the difference between 28 days and 42 days cannot be bridged without being accompanied by radicalisation and leading to an unfair trial.

On the 21st October 2005 she appeared before the law lords: they wished to investgate how intelligence was derived from abroad.  Amnesty accused the Government of "going soft" on torture after the court evidence was given by the head of MI5.   The statements of Manningham- Butler are reported by the BBC:

"Eliza Manningham-Buller does not specifically mention torture in a statement to the law lords about using intelligence information from overseas. But she says: "Experience proves that detainee reporting can be accurate and may enable lives to be saved."  By detainee she means a prisoner detained in a foreign country.  She stated she believed that such evidence saves lives.  She gave as an example the racin plot.  "In any event, questioning of Algerian liaison about their methods of questioning detainees would almost certainly have been rebuffed and at the same time would have damaged the relationship to the detriment of our ability to counter international terrorism."

Again, read it all.  I am surprised she does not support the 42 days after her robust stance to the questioning by the law lords.

Finally, we have heard much of Brown "corruptly buying" the vote on 42 days.  Are we to believe that the whole of the Tory party, apart from the one retiring, were all of one mind in voting against this security measure and no-one had any doubts or misgivings?


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