The only excuse for detention without trial

7 November 2007

Anthony Barnett (London, OK): The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, came out with the only reason she could find for extending the internment of terrorist suspects beyond 28 days. Under questioning from Humphries on the Today programme just now - he was frightful but in this case effective - she blurted out the truth: just imagine if a terrorist suspect was held for 28 days and you were "up against the wire" and he had to be released and he then committed a terrorist deed, how terrible your interview would be then!

It is all about arse covering.

The politician's arse, that is. If, after holding and questioning a person for a full month, there are any serious grounds for suspecting they are a terrorist, then charge them. It is right that it should still be possible to question them. It is usual for a case to be built after arrest. And if after holding a suspect they are released for lack of any evidence, this should not stop gathering any further evidence or acting upon it if need be.

The issue is absolutely central to our liberty. If someone is to be detained they need to know why. Otherwise, give the police the power to hold someone at their discretion and they will.

The government is going to lose this one.

UPDATE: Here is the actual quote: "Can you imagine a situation where we knew there was a trend of growing complexity where somebody had to be released because in an exceptional case they had come up against the buffers, where they had subsequently committed a terrorist act."

PS: Iain Dale has just blogged this saying, "And Our Kingdom makes the point that the 56 days debate is all about covering the Home Secretary's arse [insert sexist comment here]." It's at the end of a revealing post about who if anyone is in charge of government policy. My point is more a system's one that just about Jacqui. You can imagine the conversations between civil servants, politicians, police and terrorism 'experts' that leads to this frame of mind, or rear-end. And it wasn't her policy inititially. There are too many self-important arses up there!

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