Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lord Advocate Angiolini opposes Westminster plan over 42 day terror detention

It seems the Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini is going against her former Labour masters by coming out dead against the proposals to detain terror suspects for 42 days.

Interesting indeed ...

The Herald reports :

Angiolini opposes Brown on terror arrests


Gordon Brown today suffers another heavy blow in his bid to secure a face-saving victory on extending pre-charge detention to 42 days with Elish Angiolini, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, coming out firmly against the proposal.

On the eve of the crunch vote on the UK Government's flagship Counter Terrorism Bill, which could have serious ramifications for the Prime Minister's political future, Scotland's chief legal officer, who is in charge of all prosecutions north of the border, has told The Herald that extending the period in which a terror suspect can be held without charge from the current 28 days to 42 is unnecessary.

Her opposition raises the prospect of a potential cross-border rift should the UK Government seek to extend the detention period involving a Scottish case.

Under the bill, a bid for such an extension has to be underpinned by a report from a chief constable and supported by the Lord Advocate; in England, it has to be supported by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), currently Sir Ken Macdonald.

Already, Sir Ken has come out strongly against the 42-day proposal, insisting the current limit is "effective". Asked again last week following publication of the UK Government's concessions, the DPP reiterated his opposition to an extension, saying: "If you think something isn't needed, the means of delivering it are probably rather irrelevant."

Last night, the Lord Advocate supported her legal colleague, telling The Herald: "While there has been a limited number of cases in Scotland which were investigated in terms of the Terrorism Act 2000, I am not aware of any case where an extension of the period beyond 28 days would have been required.

"I, therefore, share the view of the DPP Sir Ken Macdonald and the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, that the requirement for an extension to the current 28 day is not supported by prosecution experience to date."

Last night, Scottish politicians opposed to the UK Government's position emphasised the significance of Ms Angiolini's position.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, said: "There is no precedent for Scotland's chief legal officer opposing government legislation of this sort.

"It confirms the already remarkable position of the DPP in England and Wales.

"These are the people whose job it is to get convictions in terrorism cases and they do not see the need for 42 days. The government's position seems weaker than ever."

Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, said: "This is an extremely significant opinion that all Scottish MPs should take very seriously. Now that the senior legal officers in Scotland and England take the same view - sceptical of the UK Government's plans - we should be listening very carefully to their voices."

Ms Angiolini, appointed in October 2006 under the previous Labour administration at Holyrood, is regarded as independent-minded and recently appeared at odds with her London colleagues.

In the Lockerbie case, she was prepared to reveal a document provided by an unnamed foreign power, which could potentially clear Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi of the terrorist outrage.

However, Lord Davidson, the Advocate General who is Westminster's legal representative on Scottish matters, urged, at the behest of David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, that a public immunity certificate be issued so the document was not made public on the grounds of national security.

In general, the UK Government, backed by the Metropolitan Police, believes that in the current climate where terror plots can involve people with multiple identities, operating across many countries and involving thousands of computer files, having the ability to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days is a good insurance policy.

Last night Steve House, Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, told The Herald that the 42-day extension was needed in an ever-more sophisticated era of crime.

"I agree with it. Listen to the voice of the real experts and experience like Peter Clarke, the ex-Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Met. There may be a situation where we need it and we are not far away with increasing sophistication and the use of computers. Already with 28 days we have been close to the wire. We can't afford to wait until something happens."


shinty mcginty said...

Relax everyone !

Money makes it ok :

Lets hope the way to claim it doesn't take 10 years ?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about the measures within Clauses 64 & 65 of the Counter-Terrorism Bill :'secret inquests' & 'special coroners', which would permit government hand-picked 'suitably trained' coroners to carry out inquest sessions in 'secret', without the presence of a jury and/or family members.

These measures (which have received very little commentary) are much more ominous than the 42-day clause. The pressure group INQUEST have raised some concerns.

The '42-day' matter is a smokescreen anyway, as people have been held without charge in the UK, since December 2001 (control order detainees).

From Babar Ahmad, Britain’s longest detained-without-charge British detainee:
"I find it strange that people in the UK are arguing today whether it is humane to detain someone without charge beyond 28 days, e.g. up to 42 days, when I have already been detained without charge for nearly four years. Such debates are smokescreens to hide the real injustices that are happening in Britain today."