more than enough

I should know better by now, but still: I’m amazed that John Reid is trying to extend the so-called anti-terror laws even further.

This even includes yet another attempt to grant police the power to hold suspects for a whopping 90 days without charging them. That’s three whole months of your life, if you happen to be suspected of perhaps being a “terrorist,” and they don’t even need to provide a reason why you’re being held.

The 90-day proposal was defeated in the House of Commons in 2005 (the first time Tony Blair had ever been defeated in parliament: since 1997), although the Commons did approve changing the law to allow suspects to be held for 28 days. Twenty-eight days is still a whole month, and still double the time limit which had previously been allowed – and notice, this is not a question about the amount of time the police get to collect evidence, or the prosecution to build a case – this is before charges have even been brought.

It is outrageous that, even after this very proposal was defeated in the House of Commons a mere year and a half ago, and by a larger majority than had been anticipated even by those optimists who had been dreaming of it being defeated, the government is yet again insinuating that we still need a debate about it.

Rather than expending their energies on things like making sure that the existing laws are applied, they are building up this drip-drip effect to desensitise us to the extreme dodginess of holding people for such fearfully long periods of time without charge, and implying that even though parliament made its will known, the all-wise team of Tony Blair and whoever currently holds the post of Home Secretary of Hitherto Unimaginably Draconian Tendencies (David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, John Reid) have decided that parliament didn’t actually know its own mind and we should just listen to the police when they ask, and ask, and ask again for more and more intrusive and authoritarian powers.

We will not be made more safe by these measures, and neither will they achieve much in the way of deterring terrorists: rather, this is only one of the many ways in which the current government has overreached itself in trampling down, not the rights and liberties which only hippies and rabid lefties care about, but longstanding traditions and conventions which up to now have been the hallmarks of a free and open society. They’re not any more, because we still fondly imagine ourselves to be a free society, in spite of having blithely handed over to the police powers which they really ought not to have, and which there is no need for them to have, and which are laying down the foundation for any future government to do serious damage with.


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