House of Lords Drops 42-Day Detention from Counterterrorism Bill

By Matthew Harwood

Britain's House of Lords yesterday defeated Prime Minister Gordon Brown's plan to extend the amount of time a terrorism suspect can be held without charge to 42 days.

Via the Guardian:

Last night the House of Lords voted by a majority of 191 to take the 42-day provisions out of the counter-terrorism bill. Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, said that she would not try to reverse the defeat, but that, if there were a terrorist emergency, she would bring the proposal back in a new bill.

Immediately, Smith criticized the House of Lords and warned that the terrorism threat facing the United Kingdom is "at the severe end of severe." She also accused opponents of the 42-day precharge detention of playing politics, saying they are "prepared to ignore the terrorist threat for fear of taking tough but necessary decisions," according to Agence France Presse.

Opponents of the extension were jubilant.

David Davies, the shadow home secretary, said his decision to resign his parliament post in protest of Brown's plan to extend precharge detention from 28 days to 42 days has been "vindicated," according to the The Independent.

Shami Chakrabarti—director of the civil liberties group, Liberty—wrote in an op-ed for the Guardian that the defeat of the 42-day precharge detention extension proved "Politics actually works."

She added:

"Ultimately however, this was a victory for human rights and common sense in the parliament chamber .... Let a new anti-terror effort begin, based on the values that bind our society together and distinguish it from those where tyranny and terrorism are rife. Make no mistake: their lordships were glorious ...."

The Times (of London) reports that with the 42-day provision dropped from the bill, the new counterterrorism bill should pass by the end of the year. Provisions in the bill allow post-charge questioning of terrorism suspects after they've been charged with another crime, gives courts the power to draw adverse inferences from suspects who remain quiet, and requires individuals convicted of terrorism-related crimes to inform authorities of where they live.


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