Attack on 28-day detention renewal

By staff

Renewing the 28 day detention period for terrorism suspects has been questioned by a committee ahead of the Lords debate on the matter tonight.

Both houses of parliament must give their approval to renew the 28 day detention period every year since the Terrorism Act was passed in 2006, extending it from the original 14 days.

A safeguard of the Act was that it contained a provision which would automatically reduce the maximum period from 28 back to 14 days after a year.

But the secretary of state can renew the 28 day detention period for a year at a time by using the power to disapply that provision, and under the approval of parliament.

The power to renew the 28 day period was exercised in July 2006, 2007 and 2008, which renewed the 28 day period until 25 July 2009.

In the last two years of operation of the maximum detention period no one has been held for more than 14 days.

Committee chair Andrew Dismore said: “Once again the renewal of this measure, which was so controversial and divisive when it was introduced, has come around without the maximum period actually being used, and without efforts being made to learn the lessons of why on some of the few occasions it has been used it has apparently not helped to secure a charge.

“It is impossible for my committee or parliament in general, to assess whether the 28 day limit is really necessary without a proper independent investigation of whether those who have been held for more than 14 days could have been released or charged earlier.

“Recent rulings of both the European Court of Human Rights and the House of Lords also make clear that unless the necessary safeguards are put in place this legislation will result in violations of the right to a fair hearing.”

The Committee called for scrutiny of the justification of the renewal, but claimed the parliament did not have enough information to assess the necessity of renewal.

The Committee said the judicial procedure did not provide strong enough safeguards, because the suspect and their lawyer could be excluded from hearing and not access all the information.

Without such safeguards, the committee said that the renewal could be at risk of breaching the UK’s human rights obligations.