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Ex-UK attorney general warns against 42-day detention without charge limit

[JURIST] Former attorney general for England and Wales Lord Peter Goldsmith [profile] said Sunday in a Telegraph op-ed that extending the time for which terror suspects can be detained by British police without charge from 28 to 42 days would be an abandonment of the Britain's fundamental principles [op-ed text]. Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] has continued his support of the controversial proposed anti-terror bill [BBC backgrounder] that would allow for the increased detention time, but the bill has faced serious opposition [JURIST report] from MPs and human rights groups. Goldsmith echoed some of their concerns, writing that giving away critical liberties, such as the right not to be arbitrarily held without charge, destroys societal values and even free societies themselves. Some Labour backbenchers say they might move to have Brown replaced [PA report] over his handling of the 42-day extension and other issues, and the government has recently offered to include more safeguards [BBC report] in the bill, such as requiring police to apply for the extension within 30 days of a major terror incident. The Telegraph has more.

UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith [official profile] first proposed a 42-day detention period [JURIST report] in December 2007. The proposal followed statements made in June 2007 by then-UK Home Secretary John Reid calling for longer pre-charge time limits, and a proposal [JURIST reports] was floated last July that would have allowed the extension of the 28-day limit after a declared state of emergency and permitted judges to authorize weekly extensions for up to 56 days subject to parliamentary notification.

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