Top UK prosecutor warns against expanded security powers

[JURIST] Outgoing UK Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald warned [Times report] Monday against the expansion of government power in gathering intelligence and prosecuting suspected terrorists. In a speech [text] delivered in London Macdonald speculated that present decisions about how the government should use technology are likely to be permanent -- an apparent reference to the proposed Communications Data Bill [official description], which would establish a massive database of all phone and e-mail traffic [AP report] in the country. Claiming a conviction rate of over 90 percent in terror cases, Macdonald said the UK was nonetheless right to resist "special courts, vetted judges and all the other paraphernalia of paranoia." He continued:

Of course, you can have the Guantanamo model. You can have the model which says that we cannot afford to give people their rights, that rights are too expensive because of the nature of the threats we are facing. Or you can say, as I prefer to, that our rights are priceless. That the best way to face down those threats is to strengthen our institutions rather than to degrade them.
BBC News has more. The Telegraph has additional coverage.

Last year, Macdonald denied that there was or should be a real "war on terror" [JURIST report] in the UK and criticized plans to extend the time terror suspects could be detained without charge [JURIST report]. Early this month, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [official site] released a report [text] expressing concern over a proposed UK anti-terror bill [materials; BBC Q/A] that among other things would let authorities detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days. The House of Lords voted down that provision [JURIST report] of the bill last week.

 

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