Monday, November 07, 2005

Country asks Blair "not to trifle with civil liberties"

So Tony Blair is asking MPs not to "compromise" national security, eh? The opposition to the 90-day detention limit is "really not good enough"?

What about those of us who don't want to compromise our civil liberties? What about the fact that there hasn't been a single shred of evidence given to support detaining people for 90 days without any concrete links to terrorist groups?

Britain has always been a country that operates on the rule of law. Thus, whilst the police need time to gather evidence to make their case, if they aren't able to put it up in a court of law, then they shouldn't be allowed further rights of detention. Keeping someone behind bars for 90 days is unacceptable if they have not been convicted of any crime.

I'm not necessarily arguing that laws shouldn't be strengthened. If applications for further detention need to be made, by all means let them be heard in a court meeting in camera, if there is the danger of disclosure harming police operations. But the police must be bound by an independent judiciary. Police are there to uphold the law, not to detain people whose offences cannot be proved.

The 90-day limit on detention is a number plucked out of thin air because Blair feels like he has to do something to capture a headline to prove that he is "tough on terror". Indeed, he needs to cement his reputation as a strong leader given how lame and powerless he looked in the aftermath of the second resignation of Blunkett. Yet the country is rightly sick of Blair's attempts to pass all sorts of draconian legislation on the spurious grounds of preventing terrorism.

It's already been demonstrated that ID Cards wouldn't have helped stop the suicide bombings in London; indeed, Charles Clarke has admitted it. Nor would the proposed powers have been used to prevent the bombings in July; the security threat was downgraded the day before the bombings, and none of the people responsible had been taken into custody (even if some may have been watched).

What is needed to combat terrorism is for the police to have adequate resources and to carry out their tasks properly. It is not good enough to justify impinging on the civil liberties of the British people so that New Labour can dominate the headlines.