New UK anti-terror bill would allow 3-month detention without charge

[JURIST] The British government introduced a tough new anti-terror bill in the House of Commons Wednesday, bringing forward measures [UK Home Office backgrounder] anticipated since soon after the July 7 London bombings [JURIST news archive] that killed 52 commuters. Among other things, the Terrorism Bill [official text; government explanatory notes] authorizes detention of suspects for 90 days without charge. The permissible detention period was extended to three months from 14 days after police said they needed more time to gather evidence in specific instances. Although the larger bill is expected to pass, the detention provision may run into difficulty; even Lord Carlisle, the lawyer appointed by the government to review new security legislation, says it has inadequate protection for suspects in its present form [Terrorism Bill report], and UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke has admitted that concessions may be necessary. Reuters has more. London-based Amnesty International has issued a scathing press release on the legislation, accusing the British government of "tearing up rights and freedoms that date back to Magna Carta", while Liberty UK observes [press release] that "things have come to a pretty pass when the country that once defined justice for the rest of world seeks to win a race to the bottom in fair trial standards." In conjunction with the introduction of the proposed legislation, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has released a comparative study of anti-terrorism legislation and practice [PDF] in ten Western countries, including the US, Australia and Canada. Liberty has already dismissed the FCO report as "spin", saying it "misleadingly compares pre-charge detention with lengthy pre-trial periods in different legal systems around the globe."



 

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