In yet another sign that the current Home Office is completely mad, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty has actually said that former Prime Minister John Major doesn’t understand what he’s talking about in rejecting 42 days for holding suspects without charge. Instead he suggests MPs should listen to the police. As in the police who lied about their murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, who obstructed the investigation and who are now trying to revise history once more about his death. Says Major:
I don’t believe that sacrifice of due process can be justified. If we are seen to defend our own values in a manner that does violence to them, then we run the risk of losing those values. Even worse, if our own standards fall, it will serve to recruit terrorists more effectively than their own propaganda could ever hope to.
That is no longer theoretical: we now have home-grown terrorists – born in Britain, not in Waziristan. Will they be encouraged or discouraged to rally to militancy if we bypass the sober rituals of law with which we are familiar?
There is no proof that an extended period of 42 days would have prevented past atrocities. There is no evidence it will prevent future atrocities. No example has yet been given of why the police need more than 28 days to frame a charge. This is a slippery slope. Assertions that it “might be useful” simply will not do. If we are to curtail the liberty of the individual, we must have more certainty than that.
I can’t fault his logic in his argument. The police haven’t given a shred of evidence as to why they need the extra time when police forces in other countries don’t, nor has anyone asserted that 42 days would have prevented past attacks. But the fundamental point is his first – there can be no justification for the extension of detention without charge. We aren’t living in a new history, with the state even vaguely at risk from hardcore, intelligent and well-organised subversives – Major himself indeed had to deal with the tail end of the IRA campaign in the UK and knows this far better than a New Labour Home Office flunky. The police in this country are notoriously bad, notorious for misusing the powers they’re given, and then asking for even more. Listening to the police over a former leader would be lunacy of the most dangerous order. Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, points out:
One week from the vote, we are told ministers can have their authoritarian cake and eat it with sugar-free “concessions”. The home secretary even says her last-minute amendments transform the 42-day power into a liberal enhancement of existing emergency powers. The joint parliamentary committee on human rights disagrees: “The safeguards in the bill, even after the potential government amendments, are inadequate to protect individuals against the risk of arbitrary detention.”
The most unpopular government in memory chooses to proceed with 42 days, facing opposition from even the joint parliamentary committee on human rights. Why Brown would choose this to try to reassert his authority on escapes me. It’s deeply disreputable, highly dangerous and quite frankly stupid. His predecessor but one, since leaving office has turned into a wise council on many policy matters, and he would do well to listen to him rather than relying entirely on hubris and machismo. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 says:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Why the basic principles with which the world decided to use to move on from the horror of World War II should be so hard to stick to is a mystery to me. But it’s far older and deeper embedded rights which they’re trying to diminish of course, despite there being no threat to the nation whatsoever. Habeas Corpus exists to protect all of us, not some of us. Suggesting that technology, globalisation or that because we live in a special time in history give us special cause to change that is wilfully misrepresenting history, and can only confirm the charge that this nonsensical policy is being attempted yet again for political advantage.