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UK government introduces bill allowing 42-day detention of uncharged terror suspects

[JURIST] UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on Thursday unveiled the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 [draft text, PDF; bill materials; BBC Q&A], which among other proposals to strengthen the country's terrorism laws includes a provision increasing the number of days a terror suspect can be detained without charge to 42 days, up from the current limit of 28. The Home Office described the bill [press release] as "designed to address the constantly changing threat posed to the UK by the violent extremists." In addition to the increased pre-charge detention period [JURIST news archive], the bill also proposes:

  • granting the government more power to gather and share information for counter-terrorism purposes;
  • allowing police to question terror suspects after they have been charged;
  • enhancing sentences for terror offenses;
  • strengthening monitoring of convicted terrorists;
  • amending the definition of "terrorism;"
  • expanding the use of DNA in terrorism investigations; and
  • amending UK law on asset freezing proceedings under United Nations terrorism orders.
The draft bill was immediately met with opposition from rights groups, including Liberty, which described the proposal to extend the pre-charge detention period as flawed [press release]. Several opposition parties - including the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats - have said they will oppose the bill.

Smith first proposed a 42-day detention period [JURIST report] in December. The proposal followed statements made in June 2007 by former UK Home Secretary John Reid calling for longer pre-charge time limits [JURIST report], as well as a proposal [JURIST report] floated in July that would have allowed the extension of the 28-day limit after a declared state of emergency and would have allowed judges to authorize weekly extensions for up to 56 days subject to parliamentary notification. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

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