This blog post will contain a short argument against extending the current dentention period allowable for terrorist suspects preceeded by a couple of relevent links:
E-petition (sign it now)
Arguments for the law include:
A) The law requires that to hold someone for more than 14 days a judge must review evidence against the person every 7 days.
The law does not require that the detainee is allowed to be present when the judge reviews the evidence. As such accusations could be made which included false or misleading statements concerning the detainee's connections, whereabouts, public statements, documents, possessions... and the judge would have <i>no way</i> to detect such forgeries. Furthermore with the current government incompetence regarding data security it would be relatively easy (for those in positions of power) to obtain accurate information about the detainee to mix in with the fabrications.
B) Obtaining evidence in these cases requires analysing complex connections, modern communications technology, breaking crypotography and detailed forensics.
The complex mesh of connections are something that can be studied in advance by the security services. There is no need that I can see to hold someone before such investigations can commence. Modern communications technology and cryptography allow a terrorist to hide their communications with other terrorists. This is unavoidable and an extension of the allowed detention time won't make a jot of difference. What might make a difference is better human intelligence. Detailed forensics are required in murder cases but do not require an extension of the allowed detention of murder suspects (4 days).
C) Suspected terrorists rights must be weighed against the rights of us all.
Take away a suspected terrorists rights and you take away all our rights as we could all be accused of terrorism (by a corrupt police officer). Furthermore false imprisonment takes away all our rights to a free and fair society (and the benefits to freedom of speech & association that follow). Furthermore the risk level from terrorism is actually very low at a minuscule fraction of the risk of being run over on our roads. If a similarly draconian law was proposed to reduce the deaths from driving by 20% it would be laughed out of parliament.
D) Requiring a vote in the house of commons to ratify detention longer than 28 days.
In practice due to the way the commons schedule works this could quite easily take 30 days to obtain. Furthermore do we really want to turn our parliament into an unnoficial jury for this most serious of crimes?
We must also look at the range of options already available to the police (or MI5) which include:
1) Gathering information and evidence before someone is charged.
2) Questioning someone again if new evidence comes to light.
3) Charging someone with acts preparatory to terrorism or some other lesser offence.
4) Manufacturing explosives (without a form of legal dispensation).
5) Using bugs, phone taps to get leads.
6) Tracking the suspect's movements.
It should also be noted that a period longer than 28 days has not been needed in any investigation of a terrorist to date. To allow the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" to slip away in the face of such arguments would seem very foolish indeed.
I should clarify that I'm not against the expansion of the security services, the use of phone tap evidence or greater funding to anti-terrorism drives. None of these threatens to undermine basic freedoms in the UK in the same way.