Saturday, 10 November 2007
Anti-terrorism legislation in UK
From The Economist: Sir Ian Blair (head of the Metropolitan Police Service) should go; the 28-day limit should stay.
The article is interesting but it doesn't talk about the government amendment of 90 days limit, to get more info you can look here in wikipedia.
And how not to fight it
Nov 8th 2007
Britain's top cop and prime minister are both crying wolf
SPIES seldom step out of the shadows, but when they do they make the news. A year ago Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, then head of MI5, attracted headlines when she revealed that her agency was tracking some 1,600 suspected terrorists—a sixfold increase from 2001. This week Jonathan Evans, her successor, said that more than 2,000 people were now on the list, and “as many again that we don't yet know of” were suspected.
It was against this background that Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, fought this week to save his job as Britain's top-ranking policeman. On November 1st his force was found guilty of endangering the public through a “catalogue of errors” that led to the shooting on July 22nd 2005 of an innocent man, mistaken for a terrorist. No individual was singled out for punishment but the taxpayer-financed police force was fined £175,000 ($368,000), plus legal costs, for the “corporate failure”. Sir Ian apologised and promised to do better, but as The Economist went to press he was turning a deaf ear to calls for his resignation.
His supporters, who include the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, and Ken Livingstone, London's mayor, reckon that a tragic but understandable excess of zeal in the confusing aftermath of the second terrorist attempt in a month on London accounted for the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. Sir Ian has proved a doughty crime-smiter and policing moderniser. To make the ace cop pay for a mistake that had no author and occurred in the heat of righteous battle would cheer only terrorists.
Others are less convinced. When there is corporate failure, the person who represents the corporation should take the rap, they maintain. Sir Ian's authority is shot anyway. On November 7th the London Assembly passed a vote of no confidence, asking the Metropolitan Police Authority to sack Sir Ian. The following day the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published a report on the specific circumstances surrounding the shooting with yet more criticism of the Met and its embattled chief. And the way has now been cleared for an inquest into de Menezes's death that will give his family the chance to put other questions. A pre-inquest hearing is scheduled for December.
Mr Evans's warning that terrorist activity is increasing provided an equally useful backdrop for the prime minister. The day after the intelligence chief's remarks, Gordon Brown outlined (for at least the third time) controversial new anti-terrorism powers that he wants to introduce. Top of his wishlist is extending the period of time for which terrorist suspects can be held without charge, a measure that most policemen back. In the past seven years this period has increased from four days to 28 (see chart). The main opposition parties say they won't raise the limit again without compelling reason to do so and some Labour backbenchers are not keen either.
The government has struggled to come up with convincing evidence. Gordon Brown said in July that six suspects had already been held for 27 or 28 days, implying that the police were up against the buffers. Others claim the police use the full extent of whatever limit they have, whether it is 14 days or 28. Suspects can already be held without charge in Britain for longer than in any other big European country. Legal systems differ, but last month Spanish courts convicted 21 people involved in the Madrid train bombings although their police had had just 13 days to find probable cause to charge those detained. And the prospect of harsh treatment on possibly flimsy grounds will deter some Muslims from giving the police useful information.
The biggest argument against giving the police more powers, however, is provided by the de Menezes shooting itself: they have misused the ones they have. Sir Ian should go; the 28-day limit should stay.