Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Behind the Headlines

Last Friday's "terror" raid appears to have revealed something really rather odd. This isn't to do with the individual case but with Blair's one time obsesion with the need for the security services to be allowed to imprison people for 90 days without charge.

It's being reported that the police are applying to for an extension so they can hold the men detained in Friday's raid for further questioning.
This afternoon, detectives are expected to apply to extend the time the pair can be held until next Wednesday. The maximum time they can be held, from the time of their arrest last Friday, is 14 days.
14 days? This doesn't seem to be an error. Krishnan Guru-Murthy just said exactly the same on C4 News.

Blair's obsession back in November last year, as I said, was the need for 90 days. Parliament didn't agree, despite the government's fear-mongering and their disgraceful use of the police as a political lobbying tool, and instead voted for a compromise 28 days. It was Blair's first defeat in parliament. He wasn't happy and suggested that those who opposed him had been irresponsible and other such nonsense.

The end result was that MPs voted to double the period that police were allowed to imprison people without charge from 14 to 28 days. This bill was given royal assent in March this year as the Terrorism Act 2006. As the Home Office says:
The Act... extends the maximum period for which people can be detained prior to charge under terrorism legislation from 14 to 28 days.
So what's going on then? Why are the media reporting that the maximum is still 14 days? I thought royal assent was the last step before a bill becomes law. Is there something I'm missing?

The H.O. said in March:
The majority of new measures in the Act will be brought into force two weeks from today, with the remainder taking effect over the next few months.
It appears that the 28 day detention period is one of the measures which hasn't been implemented yet. As I understand it, this is about the priorities of the H.O. in the way they implement the law rather than any constitutional constraints.

I really know very little about the exact prodecures through which acts are brought into force* but on the face of it, the H.O. do not appear to be in any great hurry to implement the once desperately needed extension to police power.

Why not? Was the whole 90 day thing nothing more than yet another vacuous media stunt created at a time when the PM felt he needed to be seen to be "tough on terror"? Was Blair's sincere and deeply held conviction that we absolutely must allow this enormous extension to the detention period just another worthless act of gesture politics, an attempt to generate positive headlines? Would it surprise you even slightly if it was?

* If anyone who knows can clarify this, I'd be most grateful.

I'm in no hurry to see the extension implemented by the way. The longer this unnecessary political posturing nonsense is delayed the better. Take your time, H.O. bods.

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BondWoman said...

Be thankful they are not yet in force. Interesting that they are asking for additional time for these two young men. I wonder if they have anything on them at all. See this and this for details in relation to the entry into force. Both consultation with chief constables and a code of conduct (presumably on the circs in which it is reasonable to ask for the extra 14 days) are needed first. As you say, what sort of urgency is this? Or maybe it is just that the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly.

Darkwinter said...

I think an inherent lack of speed is one of the defining aspects of bureaucracy; and they probably are indeed hurrying this through, so you have to wonder how long it would take if they were in no particular rush.

CuriousHamster said...

Thanks for those links, bw. They're hardly falling over themselves to implement this then. As you say, it's no bad thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid the delay is much less interesting that you might suspect. The reason there was a delay is because Parliament asked the Government to introduce a Code of Practice after consultation with chief contstables. It was a concession from the Government after pressure from Conservative MPs and rebel Labour MPs. This has now been published and it is expected that the law will be changed by the end of June.