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Fight back against detention without charge


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The debate over whether the government should be allowed to lock people up for two months without even charging them with anything is raging, in parliament, the offline media and in the blogosphere.


I'd really like your help to argue the case against this.


The case against extending pre-charge detention is developing some real momentum and is supported by Justice, Liberty, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, both opposition parties and Lords Woolf and Goldsmith.


Our government has got to do its utmost to prevent terrorist attacks and to punish those who are guilty of plotting to kill innocent people. But they can't do so by throwing away the rulebook and locking people up for nearly two months without charge. We have a long-established legal system and we should use it.


Amnesty have set out the case simply and clearly in a new briefing outlining ten reasons why extending pre-charge detention is a bad idea. The full details can be found at AIUK : UK: Amnesty releases 'ten good reasons why extending pre-charge detention is a bad idea' and I've listed the reasons below for good measure.


Ten GOOD reasons why extending pre-charge detention is a BAD idea:


1. UNDERMINES one of our most basic rights, enshrined in UK law as far back as Magna Carta and now at the heart of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which UK is a signatory: the right for anyone who is detained by the state to be told promptly why they are being held and what they are charged with.


2. COMMUNITY relations will suffer if the Muslim community appears to be particularly targeted for prolonged pre-charge detention. This could have an impact on intelligence gathering and policing, and could undermine positive efforts to engage with Muslims in the UK.


3. IMPACT on any individuals detained for such a long time – in terms of their job, family, house, friendships and relationships within their community – would be devastating.


4. QUESTIONED widely by experts – Lord Goldsmith (former Attorney General), Stella Rimington (former MI5 Chief), Sir Ken Macdonald (Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service) and parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights.


5. UNDERMINES presumption of innocence –Two months in prison is roughly equivalent to the length of time someone might serve in prison for assault. Lengthy pre-charge detention would impose what is in effect a ‘sentence’ of two months on somebody who may never be charged with any crime.


6. UK ALREADY has by far the longest pre-charge detention period for offences related to terrorism of any common law state.


7. INTERNATIONAL STANDING – it is much harder for the UK to criticise the human rights records of other countries that lock people up without charge when we are doing so at home. This measure would give other countries a 'green light' to curtail civil liberties.


8. HISTORY – from Northern Ireland and Amnesty's experience all over the world - shows that locking people up without charge doesn't work.


9. STATEMENTS obtained from suspects could be deemed inadmissible at trial if detention conditions are considered to be unduly harsh.


10. SAFEGUARDS discussed are insufficient – the kind of judicial oversight proposed is in no way the same as charging someone and giving them the chance to defend themselves in a fair trial.


There’s a good debate on this at a new site that I've been looking at a

lot lately, Liberal Conspiracy » Campaign to stop extension of 28 days detention | creating a new liberal-left alliance for Britain


Hope this is useful. Please do the usual - spread the word and contact your MP to get their support.

Opinions given herein are made informally by myself as a lay-person in good faith based on personal experience. For legal advice you must always consult a registered and insured lawyer.

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