Scotland's top prosecutor opposes 42 days

Guy Aitchison
10 June 2008

Guy Aitchison (London, OK): Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini has intervened in the debate over the Counter-Terrorism Bill on the eve of Wednesday's crunch vote in the Commons. In a letter to Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael she said that

"While there has been a limited number of cases in Scotland which were investigated in terms of the Terrorism Act 2000, I am not aware of any case where an extension of the period beyond 28 days would have been required.

"I therefore share the view of the DPP (Director of public prosecutions) Sir Ken MacDonald and the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, that the requirement for an extension to the current 28 day is not supported by prosecution experience to date.

She was supported by former Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmylie, who said there was "absolutely no justification" for 42 days, adding that the "Crown Prosecution Service has found that it can operate quite satisfactorily within a 14-day period of detention..so even 28 days is not justified, 42 certainly is not."

The significance of the intervention was also made clear by Helena Kennedy, born in Glasgow and now a Labour peer in the House of Lords:

"I am sure she had to weigh up very carefully how she answered that letter, and I am sure she had in mind that it would create a wave, but it isn't actually going against what most senior lawyers are saying.

"I am currently involved in these sorts of cases, and have been for the last couple of years, and I too take the view that you just do not sacrifice liberty and the protections that there are for the accused, ithout taking great care that it is the only thing open to you.

"This isn't necessary at this moment - there are ways in which you can deal with an emergency which wouldn't require having this on the back burner.
"I remember when we had the terrible atrocity of the Omagh bombing. Parliament was recalled and within 24 hours we had legislation on the books."

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