Govt 'must drop' 42-day limit

Jacqui Smith faces yet another report condemning her 42-day proposal
Jacqui Smith faces yet another report condemning her 42-day proposal

The government should abandon its renewed proposal to detain terror suspects for 42 days without trial, a group of MPs and peers has said.

Parliament's joint committee on human rights said the crown prosecution service's evidence that the current 28-day limit was sufficient proved "devastating" to the government's case.

The Home Office believes the additional two weeks on top of the existing limit is necessary in "exceptional circumstances".

But its calls have been rejected by former attorney general Lord Goldsmith, director of public prosecutions Ken MacDonald and, yesterday, former lord chancellor Lord Falconer.

Now MPs and peers have joined them in rejecting the proposal.

"All the evidence we and many others have gathered points one way," committee chairman Andrew Dismore said.

"We can see no reason why the proposal to extend the limit for pre-charge detention to 42 days should be brought before parliament at this time.

"The public can be adequately protected by a combination of the alternatives we have advocated."

The report warns the government faces a "critical test of its commitment to a consensual approach" in its stance on the issue.

"If the government is genuinely concerned to build a national consensus on counter-terrorism policy, it should drop this ill-conceived proposal and work with us and others to identify better ways of ensuring terrorism suspects are successfully prosecuted," Mr Dismore added.

One option, that parliament only be consulted in relation to ongoing cases, was rejected because debate would risk prejudicing a fair trial.

Former prime minister Tony Blair suffered his first parliamentary defeat over the terror detention issue in November 2005, when his 90-day detention limit proposal was voted down by the Commons.

The Home Office did not issue a response to the report before its publication.


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