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Why is three days considered sufficient in the USA? Are terrorists over here much wilier than their American brethren, or are our police and intelligence services much more incompetent?

I agree with 42 days or whatever is necessary to keep my children safe.

42 days are wrong and too much; there is not even a case for the current 28 days.

This argument shows a touching naivety about the integrity of the modern police "service". As David Davis rightly said last weekend, just because someone in a blue uniform asks for something, that doesn't mean you give it to them.

The question no-one can answer is why 42 days? Why not 41, or 43, 90, 120, 365? Or hell, let's go all the way.....just lock 'em up for ever. They're probably all guilty anyway. It won't affect "people like us", will it? The police will only target muslims and the like. Won't they?

42 days is wrong. Just read Heffer in the Telegraph today if you need to know why.

David Davis said on the Today programme that an incoming Conservative Government would, subject to a re-examination of the arguments for 42 days detention, repeal the 42 days if it gets through Parliament and put it back to 28 days.

If you trade liberty for security you will have and deserve neither.

I agree with 42 days or whatever is necessary to keep my children safe.

Don't give into the SCREAMING BANNER HEADLINES about how our NATION IS UNDER ATTACK. Let's leave that to the Americans.

Lets look at this logically.

What makes you think they are in danger?

Over and above Simon Heffer's piece, take a look at John Redwood's too (link to the right) which concludes: -

"The opinion polls and the Sun may think the further erosion of Habeas Corpus a good idea, but I know of no true born Englishman or woman who thinks he or his neighbour should be locked away for 42 days on the whim of authority with no good cause shown and no case brought before a Magistrates court."

I agree 100% with the Editors on this.

Don't give into the SCREAMING BANNER HEADLINES about how our NATION IS UNDER ATTACK. Let's leave that to the Americans.

Lets look at this logically.

What makes you think they are in danger?

Posted by: comstock | June 11, 2008 at 09:04

This makes me think we are in danger - from today's Telegraph:

"It is not just Iraq that Iran is using as a springboard for its attacks against the West, now the weapons are going to Afghanistan too, as part of Iran's threat to the West."
The most sophisticated versions, an armour piercing device, is described as a significant upgrade of the most lethal weapon Iran exports".

You can close your eyes if you wish to but terrorism is not going to away any time soon.

There was once a time when the Conservatives were on the side of the police. It is with great regret that we now side with the likes of the Liberty pressure group.

The police want these powers to defend us. A responsible Parliament should then give them those powers with the appropriate judicial safeguards to prevent abuse.

Rembering of course that when the limit was 14 days the government argued for the need for 90 days and parliament though rejecting their case doubled the limit to 28 days and now here come the government again pushing for 42 days, just how long before they return again trying to creep that figure back up to 90 days.

There is something disturbing about a government trying to frighten us in to giving up our civil liberties. Saying the only way to keep us safe is to detain people for long periods of time with no evidence to charge them with any crime. Just as on ID cards where they say without shifting the power balance towards the state and away from the individual we cannot protect the public from crime, we have fear again being used to persuade us all that by caring about liberty and justice we are doing nothing to fight terrorism.

I would argue if we respond to the terrorist threat by changing our way of life then the terrorists have surely won a victory. We have the most authoritarian government in history that has no respect for our freedoms and ancient liberties.

As always everyone is entitled to their opinion. I am opposed to 42 days at this point, as I cannot see what has changed since the last time we visited this. Are we to ratchet up the detention period by 14 days every 2 to 3 years to prove we are keeping on top of it? I am also wary of huge pre-charge detention periods. Surely even terrorist suspects are innocent until proven guilty. By saying that those accused of terrorist related offences can be incarcerated for longer periods than those suspected of any other crime. Are we not saying that those accused of terrorism are just slightly less innocent than those accused of rape, murder, theft etc? The big problem I have with significant pre-charge detention is that we are creating a scenario whereby you seem to infer guilt by accusation. It is not a place I would want to go.

I cannot agree with 42 days, a figure seemingly plucked from thin air as a kind of comprimise when 90 days was defeated.

This is not about "any figure to keep my children safe", with due respect to the poster who uses this phrase above. Just because they talk about terrorism and criminals, does not mean this policy will be solely used against them. Who else could it be used to lock up without charge - members of the Animal Liberation group? Known May Day protestors? Irish republicans? Members of the BNP?

This policy is short-term political game playing. The number of groups asking for 42 days is very small. It will not assist the police in tracking down suspects. I do not feel comfortable with knowing that anyone could be locked up without charge for months in an apparant western democracy. If France, Spain, Germany, to name 3, notable targets for terrorism all, can have a figure far less than 42 days, why the UK?

I am happy with 42 days. There's clearly debate on both sides and expert opinion is divided. As such, I would prefer to err on the side of caution and support the Government on this one (regardless of the politics).

There's a lot about human rights on this one. I think I have a human right not to be blown to pieces by an Islamic terrorist.

Don't make me laugh, Don'tmakemelaugh.

Are you seriously suggesting Iran is planning to use "an armour piercing device" to attack Jennifer Wells' children?

This "OH MY GOD WE ARE ALL UNDER ATTACK" hysteria really doesn't stand up to a moments logical thought....

I agree with 42 days like the Editors but I also think that there are more important things that we need to do in the battle against terror:

Win in Iraq.

Stop any kind of state support for extremist groups in Britain.

Greatly improve UK intelligence capabilities.

Spend more on our armed forces.

Work with the USA on missile defence.

The arguments you make for 42 days are really arguments for more police resources ( and maybe smarter policemen ).

In the end we should stand for something, and innocent until proven guilty, free until charged, should come near the top of the list for any Englishman.

Also it seems to me that the best interpretation of 42 days is its about prosecutions, not keeping the public safe. It would be rather hard to carry out a mass terrorist attack with people who are being followed by the security services who are also on heightened alert.

Wheeling out a few tame coppers can be achieved on any subject. You could probably find some for UFO abductions. It proves nothing.

If 42 days goes through it will show cowardice, and Brown's willingness to again put his career ahead of the nations good, and we will be a little less the country we once were.

From Guardian today: full article http://tinyurl.com/4e6nu7

Why 42 (and 28 days) is too long to hold anyone without charge:

"The ironic thing is, paedophiles, murderers, bank robbers, kidnappers and extortionists are held for four days - 96 hours maximum time. And terror suspects are on a par with all of those."
Rizwaan Sabir, 23, a student at Nottingham University, found himself detained in a segregated and sealed-off prison wing last month, arrested and held under the Terrorism Act after arriving at university and catching up with a friend for coffee.
For six days, he was kept in prison without charge, under 24-hour surveillance and interrogated daily about his views on al-Qaida and Islamic literature.
It was a subject close to his heart. Four months earlier, Rizwaan, who was doing his masters in international relations, had clicked on an al-Qaida document online while researching his dissertation, which focused on the difference between various military organisations. The document was an edited version of the al-Qaida training manual, downloaded from a US government website.
After completing a substantial chunk of the work in January, he sent the document to a colleague, Hisham Yezza, 30, who worked on campus and had access to a free printer.
"After the coffee I put my stuff down and walked into the gents. As soon as I walked in, there were three policemen behind me saying 'Don't move! Don't Move! Who are you?' And I was like, 'I'm a student. Who are you?'
"They said: 'Well, we are police officers looking for someone who matches your description.'''
Shortly afterwards, they arrested him under section 41 of the Terrorism Act for the alleged commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism; Hisham Yezza had been arrested 10 minutes beforehand.
When Rizwaan reached the police station, the second floor had been entirely sealed off. It was, he said, like some form of solitary confinement.
For the first 48 hours, he was told nothing, but was placed under 24-hour surveillance.
''They watched everything you did and wrote it down. I would read a book and they would write down what I was reading. They would follow me when I had a shower and stand right there. You couldn't take one step out of the cell without someone following you. They would stop and do random searches of the cell. It was so humiliating
Officers from the West Midlands counter-terrorism branch told him they were searching his car, computer and the family home, making him feel panicked about his family's reaction. His mother, father, grandmother and two siblings were at home in the suburbs of Nottingham.
His colleagues on campus were also questioned in relation to the investigation, with the focus on whether he had a girlfriend, whether he drank alcohol and whether he had always worn a beard.
"They were quizzed by police for five hours … they said to my personal tutor that if this had been a young, blond, Swedish PhD student, then this would never have happened. The investigating officers were making these statements when I was detention."
On the sixth day, without realising his freedom was imminent, he was told by a female police officer that the document he had looked at was deemed illegitimate for research purposes by the university, and if he ever looked at it again he could face further detention. He believed he was about to be charged.
He said: "It was breaking … absolutely terrifying, I was sitting there thinking, 'God, am I ever going to get out of here?'"
When told he was to be released without charge, he walked into the room to speak
Rizwaan's colleague, Hisham Yezza, was also released without charge after six days, but he is now being held in a detention centre and contesting moves to deport him to Algeria.
"Police are paranoid that every Muslim who is young and has a beard and is slightly involved in politics is a national security threat," he says.

Peter Clarke was disingenuous when writing in the Telegraph. His key claim was that because data is encrypted on computers and if suspects aren't willing to give the key to the code, then it could take more than 28 days to crack. It is already a chargeable offence to refuse to give the key to encrypted data, so in fact pre-charge detention is completely unnecessary in such a case. The simple fact is that, as Parkinson's law should remind us, a task in hand will always expand to fill the time available. If police aren't managing to chase down leads in 27 days then they should be given more manpower - we should increase resources and preserve fundamental freedoms, not restrict fundamental freedoms because we don't have sufficient resources.

"I agree with 42 days or whatever is necessary to keep my children safe"
This view neglects the consideration that it is also necessary to keep one's children safe from the state. The more power the state is given, the more we will be harmed by their incompetence at best or malice at worst.

We need to ask: why are we fighting Al Qaeda? We are doing it to defend our right to live as free people, our right to control our own lives and to enjoy our democratic freedoms as a nation that we have enjoyed for centuries. Undermining those very freedoms in the name of defeating Islamist terror is to undermine the reason we are fighting in the first place.

42 days is a gross over-reaction that could be more effectively replaced with:
i) more police and intelligence personnel
ii) allowing intercept evidence in court
iii) using lesser charges to hold people. Often these suspects don't have driving licenses, insurance, don't pay tax "for religious reasons" and pursue a number of other crimes. Lock 'em up for those while you investigate. Al Capone was convicted for tax evasion, remember!

Out of interest, is the editor of ConHome still a cheerleader for compulsory ID Cards too? I remember he was back in the 18 Doughty Street Days...

Is there any part of 'security' policy he shares with the Tory frontbench rather than Labour?

I elect a government to serve me, not take away my freedoms and lock me up for 6 weeks on a whim.

We already see police and local Councils misusing the new powers they have been given to combat 'terrorism' - and they would misuse these powers as well.

This lying, twisting, useless government take away my liberties without care, but still our ports are not guarded and hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants/asylum seekers roam our country with no sign of action by this bullying and hectoring excuse for a Prime Minister.

When the hate filled Muslim Clerics are deported, when failed ayslum seekers are removed, when the Customs service do their job of defending our borders and , most of all, when the terrorists we do catch face the death penalty for treason then come back to me and ask for more... but if you do those things then new powers won't be needed

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Benjamin Franklin

ToryDiary showing a dangerous authoritarian trait here.

No matter what the time limit is, the authorities will always say they have been close to the limit as a form of Parkinson's Law, where work expends to fill the time available.

It is wrong because it will be used to lock up innocent people for heckling Labour Ministers at their own conferences! The moral argument is no different to that for capital punishment.
The latter, however IS a deterrent, 42 days is not.

I could support 42 days if we had a government that we could TRUST. How long will it be before it is used for other 'threats' - conference protesters, council suspects.....

Also a point of detail, what happens if a suspect is held while Parliament is in recess? How will they approve within 7 dayS?

Most opponents of 42 days here are using sweeping arguments that could just as easily explain opposition to 28 days or 14 days. The fact is that the Tories support 28 days. We need less of the lofty "I want to be free" rhetoric and more serious study of the case made by senior Met officers for needing more time.

Ann Widdecombe has a very good article in The Express explaining why she's backing 42 days.

Here here. The political class is out of step with normal people on this. Reminds of the Haneef case in Australia (a doctor suspected of complicity in terrorism), a real stink was kicked up when the government dealt with him but most Aussies recognised that special measures are acceptable for special circumstances. "If in doubt kick him out", the phrase went.

What's all this stuff about 42 days being a random number? In all areas of business and politics one has to draw a line in the sand somewhere based on an instinct on where the balance lies. Nothing magically happens at the 42 day point, but what are you expecting?

Editor, one can easily imagine a new technology being developed which takes the police a year to 'decode'. Would you support an extension to that period? I suppose I'm trying to ask is there any length of time that you wouldn't go beyond on principle, or do you think that the length must always be determined by the technology available/complexity of the threat?

I'm strongly with the civil liberties argument on 42 days but this is the kind of thing that makes ConHome the best site for Tories, you're not afraid to rattle the cage and provoke some debate.

Hardly a surprise that Tim toes the Widdiecombe / Tebbit line on this. He does for most things.

I think it's a great shame and agree with others that 42 days might as well be 90 days, or 200 days... If you accept the argument that it's just a matter of having enough time, you'll always be sympatric to Big Brother calls to keep people locked up without a shred of evidence that they've committed a crime.

The bottom line is that the public don't care, because the think that the only people who are going to be affected are Muslims. This blog is of the same mind. The reality is that this law could affect any of us. The authorities have shown their ability to use anti-terror laws on innocent people in the past, and this will be the same.

We are a laughing stock when we preach about liberty and then lock people up without a charge. No other country is doing this.

The issue is not about dealing with terror. It's about saving face for Brown.

54 people in 7 years.

To over 600 in the 30 years of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Yet, bizarrely, the IRA/RIRA/PIRA operated across internationally defined borders, had an international funding and money laundering network, along with "high tech" equipment that claimed the lives of many civillians and service men and women.

Magically we didn't need to randomly lock up the Irish for 6 weeks straight to break them and eventually wound up with a negotiated settlement, which has significantly marginalized the extremists, leaving the IRA etc as little more than pathetic ganglanders.

Exactly why do we need to suddenly run around locking up the Muslims for numbers that came out of a random number generator? 17, 28, 120, 90, 60. And the bonus number is... 42

I also am high skeptical of "High tech" Terrorists when aforementioned "High Tech" according to various places such as INTERPOL include being able to use Macromedia Flash and video editing software.

That's hardly the most "high tech" of things I've ever seen.

Load of cobblers, always has been and just gives the government the ability to lock up whoever they wish. One could easily fabricate evidence within 42 days also. It gives the police far too much leeway in doing things that may simply be perceived as "safe" when it is infact threatening anybody .

Steve R: "I think it's a great shame and agree with others that 42 days might as well be 90 days, or 200 days..."

You could make the same case about existing Tory support for 28 days.

CH is saying they prefer 42 days to 28 days. You say that makes them happy with 200 days.

That's playground debating.

Another extract from the Sport of Foot Shooting,

The Sound of gunfire:

Company Sergeant Major David Davis DVD and bar, and, shortly on Wednesday to be further decorated with a BF for undistinguished behaviour, was an imposing figure. He stood there facing his Company, dressed in his best BD (battle dress) all sharp creases, gleaming cap badge inscribed with the regimental mascot, a Turkey and the initials FU2 (Forward United Twogether). His crowning glory was not his hair, but his highly bulled, gleaming boots, in which you could literally see your face. Fresh after a spot of leave after being involved in a six months campaign fighting in the NAAFI (canteen) queue at Torquay, left him fit and raring to go on his next task – getting his Turkeys to vote for Christmas in a war game coming up today.

“Listen in men and that includes you Pike”. Liam Fox (known as Let ‘em All In, was unable to play Pike this week – he was off sick having gorged too much on EU Turkey). Pike was now played by, “48 Hours is Enough For Anyone,” Lily. With his nose facing east, but with his face facing south Company Sergeant Major Davis was a pugnacious sight, but he was really a softy and known to the men as Daisy Davis (not to be confused with a Whoops a Daisy). CSM Davis let out a moan, “Stop filling your expenses claims and listen to me”, he commanded.

“Today we will be playing at war games, Operation Turkeys Do Vote for Christmas. (A groan from the men). We of the 28th Brigade will be pitted in a mock battle with 42nd Brigade in order to save the enemies of Liberty and Parliament”. “I thought Parliament was the enemy”, Pike muttered behind his hand, ”What’s going on? I thought everyone knew that.”
“Don’t be impertinent, boy”, ordered Captain Mainlywaring hyphen Cameron nee Mannering, standing behind the CSM Davis.
“To continue”, said the resplendent CSM, we expect the 28th will be joined and assisted in this game by such Conservative stalwarts such as Galloway, Meacher, Corbyn, Cruddas, Abbot, Winnock, Skinner and about 50 odd of the 42nd Brigade – so we are on to a winner.”
CSM did a smart about turn, banged in his right foot and impressively saluted the captain, palm facing outward, right index finger one inch (pre metric) from corner of right eye. His right arm quivered as if it was an arrow arrested in full flight.

Captain Mainlywaring-Cameron nee Mannering was fortunately wearing sunglasses as he peered into his reflection portrayed in CSM Davis’s gleaming toe caps. The captain admired his new hairstyle in the reflection with the parting in the middle, proof that he was not all style and no substance. He wondered if a moustache would suit him – give him more, well, gravitas.

“We are going to the change the name of the Operation from Turkeys do vote for Christmas to Striking a Balance”, informed the Captain. “A good idea, thought corporal Jones and no longer should we talk about Chamberlain as being involved in appeasement, but state that he was “Striking a Balance.”

“Carry on Sarnt Major, ordered the Captain, this one is down to you, I ‘ve got the lads expenses to check”.

CSM Davis did another smart about turn to impress the men, but some of them were not to impressed with the war games; they remembered the very first instruction they were given on their very first day in the Army and impressed previously on all the thousand of recruited troops ever since Cromwell’s Model Army, and of which CSM Davis was now the perfect, resplendent, shining example: “ “Bullshit Baffles Brains” – the secret weapon of the British Army over the years.

Outside the Regimental BBC Dance Band was turning up ready to lead the men into Parliament with a triumphant, stirring rendition of Wagner's Ride of the The Turkeys

Sarkis: I don't trust this Government's ability to manage a big IT programme so oppose them on ID cards. There are better things we can do with the money that the scheme would swallow.

In the thread so far I worry that many commentators are being too sweeping. The difference between 28 days (the official Conservative position) and 42 days (the Met's preferred detention period) is not one of great principle. Am I to assume that those making the great civil libertarian points oppose 28 days too?

Mr Editor, surely there are two sides to this debate, the period of incarceration being one (in my mind of lesser importance) and the question of not charging the suspect (in my mind the more important) being the second.

In order to arrest somebody for something and to keep them in custody, the police must have suspicions, backed up by some hard evidence, before arresting that person.

Therefore, I do not see why there cannot be a holding charge - so the person knows what he is accused of - to give the police time to put together the full case.

I would be quite happy with 42 days or 100 days for that process, just so long as the person has been charged without any delay - preferably within 24/48 hours and then brought back before a judge every seven days or so.

You didn't mention the abysmal quality of the legislation as an argument against 42 days, which I was blogging about this morning.

Any suggestion that Parliament or the judiciary will keep the police or government in line over requests for 42-day detention is a facade.

"Am I to assume that those making the great civil libertarian points oppose 28 days too?"

Yes, absolutely.

Why is it only the UK that needs to lock people up for 28 days without charge?

If it's not a matter of principle, then you'd agree, that if the Met or others suggested that they'd need 200 days, you'd go along with that too?

"If you trade liberty for security you will have and deserve neither."

Well said Guido.

The case for 42 days has not been made. In taking this position, Conhom like certain others seek to act tough with terrorism at the cost of our hard fought for liberties.
Do you think this makes you look "well ard" in the face of terrorism?

The powers that are currently available are more than strong enough to handle any situation that does occur. And now you expect us to trust this government to use these new laws with care, and this at a time when we are already seeing the abuse of some of their previous draconian laws on an almost daily basis as the State seeks to invade and dictate on our mundane everyday lives.

This is quite simple playing politics with peoples safety and fears, its the same methods used to argue for the Iraq invasion and other hawkish Foreign policy stances and its all the more abhorrent for it. Not only has there been no feasible case put forward for 42 days, the whole premise for this legislation was to make the government and this PM look tough and the oppositions look weak.

The idea that Parliament will be called to sit and debate this measure in the full glare of the media and on camera while we listen to the case for X,Y and Z being made is almost lunacy of the first order. Sorry, you have not thought through this whole process until its conclusion.
Douglas Hurd put it all in context, 42 days is enough to destroy someone's reputation, career and family. And now we hear about an offer to provide compensation?!?!

The suicide bomber seeks to become a martyr in the eyes of the world, going down this road helps rather than hinders this, and will simple encourage others to do the same. When will some people ever learn, you don't win against terrorists if you don't win the arguments and seek to cleverly undermine them at their own game.


I am disappointed with your editorial, particularly as it misses the key point.

Under *current* legislation, the Goverment can declare emergency powers and have an additional 30 days to interrogate/intern a suspect without trial. Add to the current 28 days, and you have a total of 58 days. Lawyers have agreed that this is legal.

Therefore why is the Government insisting on 42 days? It is not needed. The only reason is to ensure that the Conservatives look weak on terror, and Labour can blame them if they lose the vote.

I am disappointed that you have fallen for this.

A Parliamentary Researcher

Editors: You are, I presume, aware that of those six people you mention that were held for nearly 28 days, three turned out to be completely innocent? So they could have been you.

What do you see as the *function* of detention without charge for 42 days? If we don't have enough evidence against people to charge them of anything, why are we locking them up for weeks?

As I wrote in my piece, I can see a case for making it easier to charge people accused of terrorist offences, reflecting the potential dangers of letting such people wander free. But there should be *some* kind of case against them that can lead to a charge. All that pre-charge detention should be doing is provide a space in which the person can be given a chance to set out his/her case - answering questions - and then for the police to *present* (not *assemble*) their case to the CPS. The point of pre-charge detention is *not* to allow space for the police to put together a case against someone. If there is no case, yet, the police shouldn't be locking you up.

Am I to assume that those making the great civil libertarian points oppose 28 days too?

Posted by: Editor | June 11, 2008 at 09:42

Speaking for myself, yes.

The respect I have for the editors of this site is beyond calculation, frankly, which is probably why I'm so disappointed with this. Whether Anne Widdecombe is in favour, or some bletherer from Hackney is against, seems neither here nor there, and by extension, while the views of Mr Clarke are more relevant, they can't be waved around as though they were logical proof ("Mr Clarke wants 42 days, therefore it is justified, QED"). Simply because a policeman would find his life easier if he were able to lock someone away for months, without telling them why, it doesn't follow that we will be safer were we to allow said policeman to do so.

Of course we - in the limit, "I" - would be safest of all were everyone else to be locked up indefinitely, without charge. Clearly ludicrous: I push the theory to the limit only to demonstrate the inherent lack of validity in the argument which says "Lock someone up for X days without telling them why, and you'll be safe. Do it for less than X days, and you will be blown up, with probability ~1. Do it for more than X days, and you will have counter-effects on intelligence gathering".

It's not a question of the number of days. It is a question of justice. No-one should ever have their liberty removed by the state without being told why. I don't require the support of a single other living person - whether Anne Widdecombe or Andrew Lillico - to add weight to the conviction I have on that.

The lack of faith in the police and courts in this thread is breathtaking.

Whatever happened to the Conservative Party of law and order?

I have no problem with locking up a guilty man for 42 days without charge. But this debate isn’t about the guilty, it’s about the innocent. How long is it reasonable to lock up, interrogate and threaten an innocent person in the name of the greater good?

Personally, I’m not sure if I could cope with 7 days’ confinement on spurious grounds. I am certain that by 28 days I would be irreparably damaged. 42 days is beyond any sort of justification.

If we are 42 days from charging a person then the original evidence to arrest them must be very weak. Too weak to justify 42 days.

Jennifer, I don’t think that you are really so selfish as to only think about your own children.

Tim---Wide of the mark here pal. 28 days is too much and 42 days is too. Worrying a bit too that your own moral authoritarianism is extending to legal matters as well.

I can't agree with this. Caving into some policemen because they want it is not a good enough reason as they are yet to prove any case where they would need it. Give someone 42 days to complete a task and they will usually take 42 days whether or not they could complete in 28.

The reason Labour are doing this is to make us look weak on terror and so they don't have to resource the police to complete tasks in 4 weeks rather than 6. Is that a good enough reason to lock up an innocent person for 6 weeks (longer enough to destory their life). Not for me.

Lots of international comparisons being made here but they are dodgy.

We are being compared unflatteringly with America but America also has the very controversial Patriot Act.

All nations need to protect themselves and 42 days supervised by a combination of police officers and judges should be one of our protections.

The day we grant the police the laws they ask for is the day we stop living in a democracy and start living in a police state.

The day we make laws based on opinion polls is the day we take the first step on the road to dictatorship.

There are lots of other measures which can be broght in to allow the police to conclude their investigations post-charge. We should try those first rather than breach the principle of habeus corpus by locking people up without them knowing why.

A weird paranoia about the security services seems to be sweeping a normally sensible party, here.
Why on earth do you think the police would want to hold these people without charge longer than necessary?
What exactly is the conspiracy theory behind this thinking?

"Lots of international comparisons being made here but they are dodgy.

We are being compared unflatteringly with America..."

Rather than the rather sterile 42 vs 28 debate, I'd like to see a proper investigation of the alternatives. What do other common-law democracies do (USA, Australia etc)? We are told that they do not allow lengthy pre-charge detention, but how does it work in practice? Surely they must have the same potential problem with time taken to gather evidence. As they have similar legal systems to ours, surely it makes sense to investigate what happens in these countries when we are thinking of changing our laws?

What exactly is the conspiracy theory behind this thinking?


People have to try and see the wider picture here. Once this law is changed it will aplly to all future governments. Although the Labour government appears to be doing this as an act of political posturing, there may come a time when a more insidious government uses this for political ends. Rolling back liberty today may exact a untold price for everyone tomorrow.


I am very disappointed in you.

42 days is a very grave threat to our country.

HF: Terrorism is a bigger threat.

I'm with the leadership on this one.

By all means allow suspects to be questioned after charging them. I can't see any problem with that. But to bang people up for 42 days without charge is too long. Personally, I think even 28 days is too long. I don't want to make it easy for some future government to turn us into a police state.

Work tends to expand to fill the time available. Despite that, there have, as I understand it, only been 2 cases where the police have come close to the current 28 day limit. In both cases, they were actually in a position to charge the suspects within 1 days.

This measure is nothing to do with security. It is the government trying to make us look soft on terrorism. Labour MPs are being urged to save Gordon Brown, not to improve security.

Other countries that are every bit as much under threat as the UK get by with much shorter periods of detention without charge. Are terrorists here more sophisticated? Are our police incompetent? My answer to both of those questions is no. So I am against handing the terrorists the propaganda weapon of detention without charge for 2 days.

All nations need to protect themselves on two fronts. First protection of their borders, citizens and prosperity in the here and now. Secondly the protection of the character of the nation. The danger in the arguments for significant pre-charge detention is that we sacrifice the latter to protect the former. The whole aim of terrorists is to change and destroy the character of the Western democracies, consequently by failing to protect the character of our country we are in danger of appeasing the terrorists in point of fact.

The balance is difficult but we are beginning to sacrifice too much of our character. Freedom and liberty are incredibly important and we are in danger of asking what reason there is for not diminishing them rather than asking what the reason is for diminishing it. And as for the governments lunatic concession to pay people incarcerated for more than 28 days, I would say that no matter how much the compensation was it would not repay the loss of freedom.


>Why on earth do you think the police would want to hold these people without charge longer than necessary? <

What an amazing question! What about the following one: "Why on earth do you think the police would want to hold someone if he hadn't done something?" So no need for any due process at all - the police obviously won't lock people up for any longer than necessary. Or how about "Why on earth do you think the police would want to charge someone if he hadn't done something?" So no need for any trials - if the police offer a case, that should be fine.

Try this quote

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." - James Madison

"Why on earth do you think the police would want to hold these people without charge longer than necessary?"

Indeed they may not want to do so.

But have we not learned from *exisiting* examples of abuse of "terrorist" powers?
The spying on school applicants?
The arrests of peaceful demonstrators?

It is not a "weird paranoia" - such abuse happens.

What's up Tim? Trying to drum up traffic?

42 days may enable more guilty to be brought to justice. Jennifer thinks that will make her children safer. Based on past experience 42 days will also result in some innocent people being locked up for longer. I'm convinced that will make me less safe because the bad guys will be able to exploit it.

Balancing these two forces is a fine judgement. What is going on in the House of Commons todays is not. It is thuggery, bullying and bribery for the sake of political gain. We should oppose this with every brath in our bodies.


Your points would be valid if Parliament was proposing to give the police unqualified powers. It isn't.

All police powers will be subject to oversight by the courts.

I repeat the point made in our editorial; the courts have a very strong record in this country in recent years of standing up to the police and government.

I am confidence that the courts won't allow the police to hold people longer than is reasonably necessary.

Tim - sadly there is no credible argument for 42 days - we live in a time where we see nothing but an erosion of our liberty by the machinations of the state - who rule by a state of fear. As always they want more, and what really takes the biscuit is that a large part of this 'threat' is a direct consequence of both this and previous government policies! We reap what we sow!


But I still haven't heard from you what you think the *function* is of pre-charge detention, and why 42 days is required to deliver that function.

Also, there is already oversight by the courts, but that hasn't stopped half the people detained for nearly 28 days being completely innocent.

Everyone has a very clear view of what a terrorist is today.

However, for those supporting 42 days, would you care to consider what sort of person a future government might label as a terrorist in 20/50/100 years time? (you might also consider the increasing amount of offences and surveillence introduced in past 11 years).

Strange how excited people are getting about a 14day differential. I won't be overjoyed if, when, this passes through. I'm quite indifferent to it given that it is a measure restricted to such unusual circumstances.
Conservatives' instincts should be "if in doubt" on security matters- the freedoms the majority enjoy may come to depend on it.
I don't want to live in a police state as much as anyone but for gods sake calm down! This measure would take us about 0.1% in that direction, which is fine.

I see too many Con Homers have started to believe what they read in The Sun.

We need to remember that we wouldn't be having this argument about 42 days if it wasn't for the government losing on 90 days. 28 days was the springboard for 42, and now the government want to scrape 42 days through as a staging post on the way top ratcheting it up to 90 days or more. This is the THIN END OF THE WEDGE. Don't be taken in.

Just as all the other sinister authoritarian laws brought in by the government (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, Incitement to Religious Hatred Act, Terrorism legislation) started out as being for "our safety", they soon morph into instruments of an overbearing government; elderly men being dragged away by goons for heckling Jack Straw, people having their bins rifled through, their e-mails opened, being locked up for holding unfashionable (if a little bonkers) views on gay people, being carted off by armed police for reciting the names of our war dead outside Number 10, the suppression of protest outside parliament. All of these things should repulse any true Conservative and those who support the government on this are complicit in edging us even further towards this authoritarian socialist prison-state.

42 days will not be the end of the governments assault on liberty, some kind of unpalatable-yet-necessary trade off. It is only the beginning of a much wider plan to wrestle control from citizens and pass it to the state.

Editor - past performance of the courts shouldn't be seen as a guide of future performance. Freedom is indivisible, you are either free or you are not. You cannot say oh yes the law is such and such but it is subject to the courts and the courts will always protect us from the potential bad side of this. What if they don't? Freedom is at the point of the law, I would go as far as to say that fundamentally we are no longer free.

This country heads unthinkingly into totalitarianism with the support of the 'useful idiots' over at conhome. I could weep.

I repeat the point made in our editorial; the courts have a very strong record in this country in recent years of standing up to the police and government.

I thought you didn't like that...

The issue here is one of liberty. Sometimes we need protection from the state more than we need protection from an abstract terror threat. Few people are actively suggesting that terrorist suspects released after 28 days because no charge could be made are a threat to us. Instead, the state is a threat to them.

It is very concerning that this overblown NeoCon-ism (and its left-wing bedfellows) have become so prevalent.

What's "NeoCon-ism" got to do with anything?

Jennifer Wells: "The lack of faith in the police and courts in this thread is breathtaking. Whatever happened to the Conservative Party of law and order?"

The question you should be asking is what happened to police officers who were more concerned with catching criminals and protecting the public?

Where did the current crop come from who are more keen to nab easy to catch minor infringers for politically correct "crimes" or to slap revenue-raising on-the-spot-fines on people, acting as judge and jury?

I think there are a lot of decent coppers out there, but the Home Office has placed them in a system which means they are too often letting down proper law and order and pursuing the nanny state agenda. A lot of the police go along with it grudgingly, but those zealots who are keen on the NuLab agenda get swiftly promoted (hence ACPO's enthusiasm for 42 days). The number of police early retirements has gone through the roof - coppers are as disillusioned about the law as the rest of us.

r.totale: 28 days isn't toltalitarianism and 42 days is?

The hysteria on this thread is unbelievable.

YouGov's poll showing two-thirds of the public back 42 days proves that the public is a lot more sensible.

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." Pitt in a speech to Parliament, 1783.

42 days? What the hell are you playing at.

The probability of me or my children being victims in a terrorist attack is pretty close to zero, regardless of 42 days or not.

Heck, theres a bigger chance of me being run over by a bus.

It seems to me here that we are trading off a vast amount of liberty, for an extremely small benefit. This is surely extremely irrational?


Because many of our Senior police are more politicians than policemen, Ian Blair being the classic example (although he is keeping his head down a bit now).

Police are there to enact the laws we pass, and give private advice to the Home Secretary in exceptional circumstances. They are not a lobby group to whom we should defer and it is entirely wrong for them to enter this debate in the way they have.

I trust the bobby on the beat and respect what he does. All too many of his senior officers are politicised ladder-climbing yes men and I am not about to trust them with hundreds of years of hard-won British liberties

"This country heads unthinkingly into totalitarianism with the support of the 'useful idiots' over at conhome. I could weep."

So could I, and that the ConHome could support this shabby Government in its attempt to use our 800 year old liberties as political tool, and for them to buy into all this politics of fear is just staggering.

The reason why we are getting this 42 day detention is..

1/ Because Gordon Brown wants to show he can go one better than Blair.

2/As a macho bit of posturing.

3/ To wrong foot the opposition prior to the election he bottled

But as with everything Brown touches it has turned to dust in his hands, and now the 42 day detention is just about trying to save Brown's rotten political neck. To exchange our 800 year old right to save the career of this dysfunction Prime Minister is a very poor trade.

Shame on the ConHome for having been swayed by the shabby, shallow Government.

The question is will you be sleeping easier in your bed for have traded in this right, or as you have allowed the politics of fear dictate your actions will you be soon jumping at Government manufactured shadows again and soon be trading in another extension to detention to calm your frayed nerves?

Peter Clarke was disingenuous when writing in the Telegraph. His key claim was that because data is encrypted on computers and if suspects aren't willing to give the key to the code, then it could take more than 28 days to crack. It is already a chargeable offence to refuse to give the key to encrypted data, so in fact pre-charge detention is completely unnecessary in such a case.

It's also a nonsense to suggest that 42 days is the magical point where encrypted data can be decoded. Any terrorist who knows anything about encryption will be using RSA-1024 or higher which has never been successfully factored on any supercomputer including the 1petaflop roadrunner machine you may have all read about in the news.

The long and short of it is that if someone is serious about their data then no one will be able to access it.

To those who are complaining about the paranoia, I think you are confused about the nature of law. Bluntly, if a law exists in can be used, and in Britain, so long as the law is followed it is legal. Thus if people can be locked up for 42 days for thought-crimes in supporting terrorism (unless you take actual action, downloading terrorist material is a thought crime), they can be locked up for 42 days for thought-crimes in supporting say Conservatism, or Socialism. A surprisingly similiar legal system has been perverted in just this way in Zimbabwe.

Whilst we might not stand for it, the courts could do nothing about it if I was locked up without trial for 42 days because this post was considered unacceptable. Since I believe in my views and would be loath to have to hide them, if they became unacceptable (and I am a fairly absolute libertarian, so I will upset some people)I would prefer to be locked up for three days rather than 42 before the fact that I had done nothing wrong was revealed to the world.

No consiparacy. Just the tendency of laws to lose their meaning and purpose, especially bad laws!

Go the whole hog. Suspend habeus corpus altogether. What the hell.

I'm deeply disappointed by this editorial.

The supposed problem of needing more than 28 days is easily solved, the Government legislates for an application to an 'in camera' (non public) Court to determine if there is a case to extend an individual suspect's custody. If the police however lack enough to pass the test of a judge then they should release. If we give up the liberty that makes us different to the regimes we fear then we have lost. Brown and Conservative Home are wrong on 42 days.

The government are producing more sensationalist tabloid rubbish to get people to go along with this outrage, and just as with the Iraq disaster, it seems that some "Conservatives" have fallen for it. They should be ashamed.

ConHome a state patsy. Shameful!

As an opposition we have to pick our fights carefully.

Whilst I've stood up for Ann Widdecombe in a past post whilst she was being pilloried for her position on 42 days, I personally believe that this government cannot be trusted with this or any other issue concerning liberty.

There are many complex crimes around that the Police may wish to detain people for longer before bringing a charge. Fraud, Murder, Kidnap, Blackmail etc. Why should terrorism be treated differently? It is simply a wedge.

Having driven a coach and horses through the British constitution, reneged on a promise of referendum on the EU Treaty and systematically abused the offices of state for personal and party political financial gain, tried to remove the right to trial by jury for some crimes, there are ample grounds to believe this government cannot be trusted.

For those reasons, if no other, 42 days is wrong.

It sets a precedent however dressed up and gives these authoritarian socialist control freaks powers they don't need and cannot be relied upon to use responsibly.

"I agree with 42 days or whatever is necessary to keep my children safe."

Does that mean you'd be happy with 90 days or 9 months or 9 year etc etc. How safe will our children be if they are detained without question or reasonableness for an arbitrary period of time?

The endless extensions from 7 days to 14 days to 28 days to 42 days is an erosion of liberty by incrementalism. Before long we will have crossed the precarious line between liberty and tyranny if people don't make a stand however unpopular.

This is a classic example of why we have a representative democracy, as the whole point of a liberal democracy common to the popular belief of the tabloids and the modern Labour party is not majority rule without check, that is demogoguery, but the implementation of majority beliefs so long as the rights of minorities are not oppressed.


"We know this isn't going to be popular among a great many ConservativeHome readers and 92% of adopted Tory candidates but we ought to publicly nail our colours to the mast and stand up with Ann Widdecombe, Norman Tebbit, Matthew d'Ancona, Melanie Phillips and Frank Field as supporters of the Government's attempts to introduce a period of 42 days' pre-charge detention"

Oh dear.

Very disappointing.

Editor, if i recall correctly, you were not very impressed when the police harrased you for crossing a red light on your bicycle.

Now, imagine if you were detained for 42 days without charge and were found to be innocent. How would you feel?

You have admitted that you do not trust the government to deliver big IT projects. So, why do you believe that because they say someone is guilty, he is guilty.

I recall that it was the same intelligence services that assured us that WMD existed.

At the top of the thread Jennifer Wells said: "I agree with 42 days or whatever is necessary to keep my children safe."

I think she will find that her children would have been very safe from potential terrorist attack in Soviet Russia.

Whilst Cameron is right as a party leader to express this issue in pragmatic terms (particularly bearing in mind reported public opinion), ultimately these civil liberties matters are issues of instinct not analysis, and the instinct depends on each of our answers to the question: "What do you most fear in the modern world, erosion of personal freedom or erosion of public safety?" I am in no doubt that the threat to freedom, partly coming from over-reaction to threats to safety, is the greater danger. That is probably not something that I can persuade Jennifer Wells of because it is my instinct and character against hers.

It is also why I am very happy to be aligned with the charming, persuasive, principled and constitutionally literate Sharmi Chakrabarti rather than the oafish, rude, politically devious and self-serving Metropolitan Police led by Sir Ian Blair.

DNA harvesting, linked databases of all Govt information, routine surveillance of electronic communication, ID cards, all-pervasive CCTV, 42 day detention (why stop there?) are all weapons even in the hands of this police force and Government that I fear - let alone the horror scenario of a more malign Government getting its hands on these weapons to bully its opponents or persue personal agendas. Our only hope is Government incompetence - so misuse of all this information is more likely to be freelance and sporadic than centrally directed and all-pervasive. Great.

And then if they can't get you in any other way, they can lock you up for 42 days.

Have the police thought of starting gathering evidence BEFORE they arrest people?


>imagine if you were detained for 42 days without charge and were found to be innocent.<

It would be worse than that! It would be: imagine if you were innocent, detained for 42 days without charge, and at the end of that time it turned out that they had never had any basis for even charging you with anything.

The point here isn't that some people detained for long periods might turn out to be innocent. That is the argument around whether accused people should be granted bail, etc.. Even if there is a strong case against someone people still turn out to be innocent. Rather, the point here is how long it is okay to hold someone without even having enough of a case against them to charge them with anything! The police/government want to hold people for weeks on end just on general suspicion, without evidence or specific reasoning to support a charge, and without needing to tell the person specifically and officially what she is accused of so that she can defend herself.

You have admitted that you do not trust the government to deliver big IT projects. So, why do you believe that because they say someone is guilty, he is guilty.

I recall that it was the same intelligence services that assured us that WMD existed.
These are also the same intelligence services that have not publicly backed the calls for 42 days, citing "it is not their place". If the intelligence services don't see this as being part of their territory then it is even more worrying.


Your article is no more than appeasement of this social fascist government

Ann Widdecombe's words in today's Express:

"Today we will vote on whether or not to extend the period of detention for terror suspects from 28 to 42 days. It is one of those rare occasions when I shall refuse a three line whip and vote with the Government because the fight against terror seems to be just a little more important than the fight against Gordon Brown.

When there is an emergency, any government has the right to ask Parliament for extraordinary powers and, providing those powers are regularly reviewed and renewed rather than granted indefinitely, Parliament should agree. Conservative governments took extraordinary powers to deal with the violence in Northern Ireland and considered that perfectly normal.

However, the then Labour Opposition refused to back us as we are now refusing to back this Government.

It is surprising what a spell in government can do when it comes to facing up to responsibility.

Conservatives should remember that tonight."

42 days is just a political stunt by Brown. The DPP said 42 days is not necessary - HE should know!Dame Pauline has said that those suspects which have been charged at almost 28 days had in fact provided the chargeable info within a few days of arrest.
Very disappointed that you have sought to undermine the Tory policy - is your ego getting the better of you?

I fundamentally disagree with CH's stance on this.
I guess I am from the left of the party (not just on the question of Dave's parting).

I'll pick out two things from what you have said.
You say there is evidence that, 'MAY mean that more than 28 days of investigations might soon be necessary'.

May? Might? That's not good enough! Both the main opposition parties have repeatedly asked for examples (I assume under privy council auspices) of where 28 days wasn't enough. The government has always failed to give an example, as I understand it.

Secondly you say 'Al-Qaeda' is different from the IRA because 'They want to kill as many people as possible.'

I'm sorry thats complete BS. I seem to remember the IRA blowing up a Conservative Party conference not to mention Omagh etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

Even when our party itself was attacked with explosives did we suspend habeus corpus in this way?

There are already mechanisms for detaining people for prolonged periods while electronic investigations are carried out. As Bob Marshall-Andrews repeatedly points out from the Labour backbenches.

The maintainence of British Constitutional arrangements (to avoid a relapse into the despotism of the 17th century) was one of the founding principles of the Conservative Party. We shouldn't stray from that ethos just because we might not sound tough enough.

I know that to effectively fight an enemy you sometimes have to become like them. As yet I am not prepared to do that. Once a change like this becomes ingrained its very hard to go back, and that will be a small victory for the assumed enemy.

Let's not pander to the disgusting totalitarian tendancies of the Labour party. We've been down that road before and it leads to a very dark place.

"Let's not pander to the disgusting totalitarian tendancies of the Labour party."

Well said! I'm disapointed to see this side supporting this unnecesary and vote-grabbing policy.

I am not in favour of current state of things or in favour of the new proposal. I am just asking why 28 days and why 42 days, why not 35, 21 or 60!

My conclusion:

1) All the arguments in place could be used reversally when considering 14 days / 28 days option.

2) Will we face another (and another) choice next year? Could be the detention limit extended ad infinitum?

Well said, Londoner @11.32.

Tim you wrote:
I am confidence [sic] that the courts won't allow the police to hold people longer than is reasonably necessary.

I do not believe you can mean this. If Brown gets his way with this, under what circumstances could a court over-rule detention by a police officer?

Judge: On what grounds is Mr X being detained?

Police Officer: Can't say your honour. No evidence. We hope to bring a charge within six weeks.

Judge: I see. Perfectly legal. No UK law being abused. Carry on!

-- meanwhile, over in parliament, the HoC is debating Mr X's case:

MP1: My constituent, Mr X, has been locked up for six weeks without being told why.

MP2 (who voted for the legislation): disgusting! Why's he being held?

MP1: No idea.

MPs proceed to vote to release Mr X.

Who has precedence? The judge or the HoC? Even if you can answer that with reference to government statements, you must be able to see what a farcical, evidence-free process it will be.

Neocons should stop lying to us about the extent of the danger we live in. 7/7 was a seminal moment in our lives but it is not the archetype for how we live now. Our bus was one of the 21/7 targets. I still take it twice a day. Most of these jihadis are idiots, fumbling stupid boys. Criminal plots are best monitored with Intelligence and defeated through a judicial application of due process.

Neocons fuel their endless War On Terror by provoking their citizenry into paranoid attacks on their own liberty. This is their rallying cry: Only when you distrust everyone, only when you can't switch the telescreen off, only when you join the Sun in its two-minute hate against the people we lock up (without charge), only when you learn to love Big Brother, will you then be safe.

You know what? We could do all of that. Murderous sociopaths will still kill us. This doesn't "prove" the need for yet another war or for yet another dissolution of our freedoms.

Whether guilty or innocent, it's wrong to lock up anyone without charge for an unreasonable amount of time.

Brown is just playing politics and so should be defeated on that alone, but even if someone reasonable came out with this, it's still just wrong, plain wrong... we need to be reducing the 28 not increasing it.

Yes, it may be only terrorism now.. but that may creep - they're trying to put that thought crime bill through (dangerous pictures act) - how long before they decide that you might need to be locked up until they can search all your computers for that in case you are a "danger to society".
.. or since there's no charge, who is to say they are being held because of terrorism or parking offences?

Locking people up for too long without charge will incite terrorism... the police would have to lock themselves up!

So depressing.
The Conservatives are now the party of appeasement. This opposition to longer detention powers fit in neatly with the party's indifference to beating al-qaeda in Iraq.

I seem to remember the IRA blowing up a Conservative Party conference not to mention Omagh etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

Even when our party itself was attacked with explosives did we suspend habeus corpus in this way?

Yes, the IRA killed people but that was to further a specific political aim. NOTHING will appease Islamic extremists - they hate us for who we are and the way we live. It's hardly a secret, you just have to listen to what they openly say...

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