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UK Home Secretary limits terror detention bill

[JURIST] A proposed UK anti-terror bill [materials; BBC Q/A] that would allow authorities to detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days [JURIST news archive] has been amended to only apply in cases of "grave and exceptional" terrorist threats, UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said [BBC Radio 4 recorded audio] Tuesday. Current British law authorizes detention without charge for 28 days [JURIST report], but bill proponents have argued that this time-limit endangers national security. Under the amended measure, British law enforcement authorities could only detain terror suspects past the old limit if there is an immediate threat of terrorism, if Parliament approves the longer holding within seven days of detention, and if the judiciary considers the case. The Guardian has more.

Smith 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. Former UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and European rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg [JURIST reports] have joined backbench MPs and rights activists in speaking out publicly against Smith's 42-day plan.

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