Govt defeat on terror commissioners

By Alex Stevenson

The Lords handed another defeat to the government last night, as peers ignored its opposition to independent commissioners for terror suspects.

An amendment tabled by Lord Lloyd of Berwick which suggested having commissioners oversee the way those arrested on terror offences are dealt with by police was passed by 145 votes to 103.

It was the second defeat for the government on the coroners and justice bill, which is currently in committee stage in the Lords.

“When terrorist suspects are arrested, often in circumstances of great publicity, and then released without charge after 28 days or whatever period it may be, it causes much resentment,” Lord Lloyd explained.

“It is resented, naturally, by the suspect himself. However, it is also resented by the suspect’s neighbours, and by the Muslim community at large.

“The presence of an independent commissioner at Paddington Green would do much to reassure the Muslim community, not just that the suspects are being well treated, as should surely go without saying, but also that the police are getting on with the investigation as quickly as they can.”

Lord Brett, speaking for the government, said following consultations with the police, prosecutors and the court services, “we now believe that an independent commissioner as envisaged by the amendment would have a detrimental effect on the conduct of terrorist investigations”.

But Lord Berwick said he did not accept this view and forced the vote, which the government subsequently lost.

It is the latest in a series of government setbacks on dealing with terror suspects. The maximum limit for pre-charge detention for terror suspects was to have been extended from 28 to 42 days before a massive campaign prevented the increase.