Thu, 15 Nov 2007

Oppose any extension to the pre-charge detention period - lobby your MP

act If you haven't already done so, write to your MP to ask him/her to oppose attempts by this government to increase further the pre-charge detention from its current 28 days period.

CAMPACC has published a model letter to help you ask your MP to give an undertaking not to vote for the renewal or extension of any ‘anti-terror’ powers (such as the extension of the detention without charge from 28 days to 56 days or possibly even 90 days, post-charge questioning of ‘terror suspects’, the creation of a new criminal offence of seeking ‘information which could be useful for terrorism’, travel restrictions for ‘suspects’, and the collective punishment of families of convicted terrorists). This effort is part of a national campaign bringing together many diverse organisations to oppose current anti-terror laws as well as their extension:

The government is planning yet more ‘anti-terrorism’ measures, which will go to Parliament in a new bill in October. This ‘anti-terror’ bill reinforces a trend beginning with the Terrorism Act 2000, whose broad definition of terrorism criminalised normal political activities, potentially on the basis of suspected ‘association’. This law was followed by three more in 2001, 2005, 2006; these multiplied extra police powers (e.g. arbitrary stop-and-search), punishment without trial and treatment of ‘suspects’ as guilty, thus bypassing due process. Together these laws have normalised detention without trial under various guises, such as control orders and immigration rules, whereby the accused never see the evidence against them.

Below is the email I sent to my MP on 2007-09-13 and her reply (in italics) sent on 2007-10-26:

When we met at Portcullis House early December 2005, we discussed the compromises you find are necessary as part of our political system. One specific example we discussed was your support of the compromise to extend pre-charge detention of suspects from 14 up to 28 days hence successfully defeating the 90 days amendment.

You may remember that I found this difficult to understand as these are not abstract compromises, they deeply affect the lives of individuals who have not been charged, and hence by definition are innocent. Gareth Peirce and Louise Christian both wrote at the time about how even 14 days or less in Paddington Green affect the mental health of detainees.

Gordon Brown has stated that he intends to propose a further extension to the current 28 days pre-charge detention period, and the police, via the ACPO, has even suggested they are keen for indefinite detention.

28 days is already the longest period of pre-charge detention of any western country. The case has not been made to even justify keeping this period as long as 28 days nor for extending it further. Extending this period will further erode our civil liberties and increase the likelihood of innocent persons to be detained without charge for over a month.

I urge you to publicly reject calls for extension of the pre-charge detention and vote against any such proposal that may be included in forthcoming Bills.

As we discussed at the time, I feel the 28 day limit to the detention period prior to charging to be a necessary compromise. I was very vocal about this issue at the time, sponsoring an amendment to limit the period of detention to 28 days rather than 90 days. I can, furthermore, assure you that I feel no need to extend the period at this point in time.

I also call to your attention a different issue: the de Menezes family is currently represented in the UK by four of Jean's cousins and one of his friend. The procedures around Jean's killing are delayed. The inquest will not start until after the health and safety procedure, for instance. Justice4Jean has indicated that the Home Office may not renew the visas of these five individuals. Ensuring they are welcome in the UK for at least the full duration of all the procedures surrounding Jean's killing is a very small gesture that must be done towards this grieving family.

I would be grateful for you to make representation to the Home Office so that Jean's four cousins and one friend's visas are extended and they can represent his family in all these legal proceedings.

I was concerned to hear about the issue surrounding the visas of those representing Charles de Menezes in the UK but will write to the Home office to enquire about this situation. I will be back in touch when I receive a reply.

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