UK terrorism detention bill criticized by former intelligence chief

[JURIST] A former British intelligence bureau chief told [transcript] the House of Lords Tuesday that a proposed anti-terror bill [materials; BBC Q/A] allowing authorities to detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days [JURIST news archive] is impractical and unprincipled. Elizabeth Manningham-Buller [BBC profile], who resigned as the head of MI5 [official website] last year, said that the bill was unworkable and would not afford defendants the necessary right to a fair trial:

I have weighed up the balance between the right to life — the most important civil liberty — the fact that there is no such thing as complete security and the importance of our hard-won civil liberties. Therefore, on a matter of principle, I cannot support the proposal in the Bill for pre-charge detention of 42 days.
Manningham-Buller's speech was part of the opening House of Lords debate [transcript; Liberty UK backgrounder] on the bill. The peers will vote on the bill in the fall, and are expected to reject it. The Independent has more.

Currently, British law authorizes detention of terrorism suspects without charge for 28 days [JURIST report]. Proponents of the new bill have argued that the 28-day time limit endangers national security. Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official profile] has argued for the necessity of the bill [Times column] and told MPs that it is the government's duty [PMQ transcript] to provide such security. In June, the House of Commons approved the bill [JURIST report], but the House of Lords must still approve it for it to become law.

 

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