» Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Anti Terrorism Bill

Asked what possibilities there might be of a compromise on the 90 day detention rule as set out in the Anti Terror Bill, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Prime Minister had set out his view on this yesterday at the press conference. What the Prime Minister said was that the police had clearly and publicly set out in their paper they published last week the reasons why in a few circumstances, they needed to question people for longer. The Prime Minister believed the police’s case was well made and therefore, it was up to others to argue otherwise. The PMOS said that Ken Jones from ACPO had said in a radio interview this morning he supported the case for three months, and there would be others who would comment likewise. The key point was that whereas in organised crime cases, the police could allow events to unfold and gather evidence as they went along which they could use at a time deemed appropriate, in these cases, because they involved suicide bombers, the fear was that if events were allowed to unfold, there might be a situation where many people were killed or injured. The police could not take that risk. The PMOS said the problem was that the police had to spend a lot of time after the arrest gathering evidence in this country and overseas. The Prime Minister’s view was that this was a very strong argument that had been put forward by the police.

Put to the PMOS that in France, for example, suspected terrorists could in theory be held for up to four years, and was there a feeling that Britain was far behind the rest of the Western world in how we dealt with this problem, the PMOS replied that what the Prime Minister had said yesterday was that three months was already a compromise, but it was a period which the police believed to be the necessary time, as the police felt that the 14-day period was not long enough.

Asked if the Government was confident that the argument was so strongly in our favour, given that that the legal lobby was strong in the House of Lords, the PMOS said that as the Prime Minister had stressed, this was not a macho tug-of-war. Rather, this was about addressing a real need, as defined by the police, and supported by others, which was to address the real situation posed by different kinds of terrorism, and to address the different kinds of questions that it therefore posed to the security of this country.

Put to the PMOS that Charles Clarke appeared to be taking a different approach, and had seemed more open to compromise, but the time for seeking a consensus had now gone, as the Bill had been published, the PMOS said that we wanted to proceed on the basis of consensus if possible. That, however, was up to others. The key point was whether people could address the real need as outlined by the police, and the Prime Minister was as yet not persuaded that there was any argument that undermined the case put forward by the police.

Asked why the police could not charge people with a lesser offence, but still end up with the same result, the PMOS said that Ken Jones from ACPO had addressed that issue in his radio interview earlier today. Mr. Jones pointed out that if people were charged for a lesser offence, it increased the chances that they would be released on bail. That created a real problem for the police as it allowed those people access to other people involved in terrorist organisations.

Put to the PMOS that he had mentioned it was "up to others", and did that mean that everyone had to agree with the Government, the PMOS said: no. What the Prime Minister’s view was that people had to address the real need and the real argument and what we could not do was to "duck the question". That question was: if the police had to question people at an early stage in an investigation, because of the possibility of suicide bombers and the devastation that caused, therefore more time was needed for police to gather evidence. That was the crux of the argument.

Put to the PMOS that the Prime Minister had given a heavy hint that more measures would be taken towards ending organised crime, the PMOS replied that there were already proposals being put together for the reform of the Criminal Justice system. There was also further action being proposed against disorder that would be part of the Respect legislation that would come later in the year.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought that some of the judges needed "brow beating", the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had specifically said that he was not involved in brow beating. The PMOS said we all had to address the reality of the position on terrorism, of the effect of terrorism and the reality that the terrorism was of a different kind. Equally, what we also had to face was the reality of what disorderly behaviour could do to neighbourhoods.

Asked what was the difference in reality between knowing that an IRA bomber was about to set off a bomb killing people, versus the police arresting someone earlier and holding them whilst the police gathered more evidence, the PMOS said that the police had dealt with that issue in their paper. The basis argument was that there were many instances when the police did intervene to stop IRA bombs happening, but they were able to do so using surveillance and other methods over a prolonged period. The PMOS said that the problem with suicide bombers was that all it took was a split second for a suicide bomb to go off and kill many people. Therefore, it was a different kind of attack to an IRA attack where a bomb was placed and then people had a chance to get away. A suicide bomb happened instantly.

Asked what that had to do with charging a suspect, the PMOS said it was about a balance of risk. It was about how long people could be reasonably confident that something was not going to happen. Suicide bombs change the balance of risk and therefore, we had to intervene sooner. The PMOS recommended that people read the police’s paper.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. Some pretty dubious logic there; the IRA certainly threw grenades into army pubs from time to time and the pub bombings had only a short amount of time between the bomb being placed and the bomb exploding.

    Surely they’re exactly the same principle, the key difference being that MI5 had some relatively reliable sources in the IRA (and the IRA used to phone warnings in), whereas MI5 are at a loss with Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.

    Of course, it’s only the amount of time that people can be held WITHOUT CHARGE. If there is enough evidence to charge someone (not necessarily enough to uphold a conviction), then you can charge them and hold them until trial.

    A prolonged ability to hold suspects without charge can only lead to increased miscarriages of justice, as we saw in the 1970s and 1980s with cases like the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. And we all know how well internment worked to disincentivise IRA bombers, don’t we?

    Comment by Owen Blacker — 12 Oct 2005 on 4:31 pm | Link
  2. This is the country that gave the world Habeas Corpus! Winston Churchill said that "to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law is in the highest degree odious and forms the basis of all totalitarian regimes".

    This is a power grab by a fascistic paramount war criminal. If this passes, we can kiss our rights and freedom goodbye. Welcome to Nazi Britain.

    First they came for the muslims….

    Comment by Antipholus Papps — 13 Oct 2005 on 11:42 am | Link
  3. I am at a loss for words, while the nation is sitting back moaning about yesterdays news on the bbc licence they are being deliberatly sidetracked by the government and the media, we know what your game is, while we concentrate on money and what we can or cant afford you and your puppets are selling the british people down the swanny, this country was fought for many lives were lost and still being lost and you have the nerve to decide that you will change the law, to what you think is best, if you are not compident in doing your job Tony then we will have to find someone who can without making up new laws to make your job easier, you are a dictator. and we never voted for that, didn’t we just send our boys in to Iraque to rid the world of yet another dictator well carry on son because you might be the next one removed from your seat that we the british people pay for, and while you are at it perhaps you can tell me how the council tax earned from one little estate in Enfield amounting to over \xA320000.00 pa is spent because we are not seeing a penny of it.

    pretty soon the people will realise what you are playing at and we will not stand for it.
    you would not have to resort to a police state if you dealt with this countries real problems that cause you to think you have the right to change what you see fit,
    start dealing with the poverty and rights of the people as a whole, equality , thats the root of your problems an unjust system, greed and you always blame the workers and the little people well the little people of this world have had enough, you will not dictate to me or mine I was born a free woman and will remain one, I opt out of your so called social system and I reckomend we all do the same. I will if I have to fight to the death and this is from me, who has worked
    all my adult life my family work hard we have payed into your system and it stinks of big brother and lillte hitlers like yourself. the pensioners are the only ones with any grit at least they are not affraid of you and neither am I not amy more. you are a disgrace to this country ,who do you think you are ,trying to frightening innocent people , threatening us with guilty until proved otherwise, how dare you.
    I hope your impeachment comes quickly you are really showing your true colours arnt you.
    Stand up Briton the time is now.

    Comment by Katrina Day — 13 Oct 2005 on 1:59 pm | Link
  4. This proposal for internment is terrifying for those of us who value democracy. It seems that every time Blair makes a political proposal that’s contentious – he piles the blame for it elsewhere. Not so long ago it was the JIC and now this time its the police. He acts as if he is duty bound to follow this request from the police due to "compelling" evidence – but I have not heard a single scrap of justification for this proposed internment. Exactly what’s so compelling Tony?

    He is systematically dismantling OUR democracy in front of our eyes and imposing what’s looking more and more like a police state. The hypocrisy is staggering: he’s (illegally) imposing Western governance in Iraq in the name of democratic ideology, and at the same time he’s sacrificing the basic principles of justice and freedom that are the bedrock of our constitution. Walter Wolfgang got a taste of what’s to come.

    How long before we see Blair in a military uniform, posturing with an AK47 in front of the adoring masses? Perhaps The Democratic Republic of Iraq will liberate us from an evil dictator in the future….

    Comment by Will Hall — 13 Oct 2005 on 3:34 pm | Link
  5. The UN is unable to define terrorism.

    But we have a bill that locks terror suspects up for 90 days without charge.

    The charges at the end of that period will be for something other than ‘terrorism’ – probably possession of xxxxx with intent etc..

    So if terrorism is not defined then the period of imprisonment without charge is clearly a problem.

    If there is no definition of terrorism then anyone can be locked away for anything for 90 days and released at the end of it without charge – does that make it illegal imprisonment?

    or is it going to become the norm?

    If someone is locked up for 90 days and then charged with a firearms offence does that make the imprisonment legal?

    Without a definition of ‘terrorism’ I really can’t see how you can justify the internment.

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 13 Oct 2005 on 6:29 pm | Link
  6. The U.N. is unable to define a lot of things. Coming up with a definition of terrorism would undoubtedly be an uphill struggle.

    Obviously no democratic society wants to resort to some of the measures proposed in the Anti- Terrorism Bill at the drop of a hat, and Brits are right to feel leery about handing Blair an co the go ahead in all cases.

    I found it rather disturbing to read recently that police in England, I believe at some equine event, took a young girl into custody for wearing a "bollocks to Blair" t’shirt. Let’s hope this type of thing isn’t a sign of what’s coming down the pipe because curtailing people’s freedom in this type of gratuitous fashion is clearly unacceptable.

    In N.America I am continually confronted with signs of Bush bashing. Everything from chimp T’shirts to crude slogans. I don’t like it, but I stand by their right to say it.

    Britain is indeed the land that gave the world Habeas Corpus … let’s not forget it!

    Comment by Aidan Maconachy — 16 Oct 2005 on 5:58 am | Link
  7. Does any sensible person support the ‘judgement’ of the Police? Their paper should be published for public scrutiny. Let’s not forget the crass and monumental disasters arising from recent police ‘judgement’.

    The word ‘judgement’ indicates a careful balancing of arguments – when was the last time that any Police statement exhibited this? Judgement no, Opinion, yes.

    Does anyone seriously believe the Prime Minister’s assertion that he is not involved in ‘browbeating’ the judiciary? Or is this the usual routine of getting his minions to do the dirty. McCavity!

    The PMOS seems to believe that there is a profound difference between IRA terrorists and suicide bombers. Apparently we can thwart the IRA but not others. Why is this? In both cases lengthy planning and preparation takes place, and the ‘security services’ should be on top of the job.

    Maybe the PMOS believes that anyone can wake up in the morning, decide to blow themselves up on the Underground, and walk into Boots and buy plastic explosives, detonators etc over the counter.

    The reality is that these ‘services’ failed to recognise the in-built threats and are now trying to excuse that failure. What do MI5 and 6 actually think they are paid to do?

    Comment by Chuck Unsworth — 16 Oct 2005 on 9:19 am | Link
  8. However, you can wake up one morning and decide to blow up a tube train [or whatever] – visit the internet – get the recipe for the explosives used on 7th July – go out to town – buy the ingredients – empty the freezer – follow the instructions [ carefully] – make the explosives [being sure to store it in plastic containers ‘cos it becomes unstable and explodes in metal ones] – trot off to your chosen target and boom – job done.

    The worrying aspect of all this is the government spin – we loose more people to drunk drivers each year than to any form of terrorism – but they just extended opening hours???

    An on MI5/6 – one expects that the bods in GCHQ will eventually get a copy of this posting because of the ‘key words’ that it contains – it will undoubtedly be added to my file which is probably marked "awkward old bugger – no immediate threat"

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 16 Oct 2005 on 10:49 am | Link

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