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42 Days - Detention without charge

The Liberal Democrats have consistently worked with the Government and others to agree effective laws to tackle terrorism. But we are not willing to go along with measures which are ineffective, illiberal and designed just to look tough. So we are leading the fight against the Government's plans to extend detention without charge to 42 days.

Liberal Democrats oppose this measure because:-

  • 28 days detention is too long - far more than any other democratic country in the world
  • It is counter-productive - alienating the people whose help we most need to fight terrorism
  • No case for it - The Government has failed to present the convincing evidence that is needed

Instead Liberal Democrats propose:-

  • Post-charge questioning - if allowed this would reduce the period of time that people need to be detained before a charge. And this is proposed in the current Bill and supported by the Liberal Democrats.
  • Use intercept evidence in court - if allowed this would also reduce the period of time that people need to be detained before a charge and most other countries do allow the use of this material as evidence.
  • Upgrading of charges - initially lesser charges could be brought based on intercept evidence and before trial upgraded if and when evidence of more serious crimes becomes available to the police.

Together these three measures would allow the police to charge suspects earlier, give the police time to build up more evidence and bring further charges as required.

The current Government appears to believe it is ok to lock a person up for 28 days, now 42 days, without even telling them why. This is fundamentally wrong. It is in stark contrast to other democratic countries where the pre-charge detention period is much shorter, for example:-

Australia - 12 days maximum

Ireland - 7 days maximum

France - 6 days maximum

Spain - 5 days maximum

Russia - 5 days maximum

Italy - 4 days maximum

Germany - 2 days maximum

United States - 2 days maximum

New Zealand - 2 days maximum

Canada - 1 day maximum

No other country with a common law system has sought such a lengthy period of detention without charge. This fundamental departure from our traditional principles of British justice should only be considered as a last resort, not just a policy to make a Government "look tough".