Archbishop warns of ‘police state’ detention

The archbishop of York has warned that extending the time terror suspects can be held without charge to 90 days is getting close to creating a “police state”.

John Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, warned the proposal being considered by the government was dangerously similar to what happened under Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

“If you detain people, you must have good enough reason for detaining them and have a chance for there being a successful prosecution,” said the archbishop, who fled President Amin’s rule in the 1970s.

Plans to extend to 90 days the time terror suspects can be held by police without charge had to be dropped amid overwhelming opposition in parliament in 2005. Instead, the government accepted a compromise of 28 days, up from the previous limit of 14 days.

However, home secretary John Reid last week told cabinet ministers that police wanted them to look at the issue of 90-day detention again, although he acknowledged that strong evidence would be needed to justify such a move.

Opposition parties continue to be sceptical about an extension, and in an interview with ITV News yesterday, Dr Sentamu said: “[Mr Reid] has not produced the evidence that shows that in 90 days you’re capable of getting somebody prosecuted.

“Why does he want these days, so the police do what? Gather more evidence? To me that becomes, if you’re not very careful, very close to a police state in which they pick you up and then they say later on we’ll find evidence against you.

“That’s what happened in Uganda with Idi Amin.”

Last week, nine people were arrested on suspicion of terrorism-related offences in the West Midlands. Police have until Thursday to question them, before they can apply for more time from a judge.