While watching ‘In The Name Of The Father‘ last night, i surprised to hear how people reacted to the initial introduction of the terrorism laws which allowed the police to hold people for up to 7 days without charge. That was in 1975. It is now up to 28 days, and current government proposals want to increase that to a staggering 42 days!
42 days in police custody without basic rights.
This inspired me to write to my MP:
Dear Mark Lazarowicz,
I am writing to make an official protest to the current terrorism laws
in the UK which permit the police to hold suspects without charge for
28 days, and the proposed increases to that period.
I find it hard to believe that a democracy can ever justify holding
innocent people for a month without charge and therefore without their
basic rights as citizens of this country.
And at 7.40am this morning i received this reply:
Dear Mr Macdonald
Thankyou for your email. I can tell you that I had some concerns over the 28 day period when it was proposed last year, but eventually was prepared to accept it as a compromise which did seek to reconcile the protection of civil liberties with the reality that some terrorism cases are complex to investigate. You will no doubt be aware that the 28 day period received all-party support.
I did not agree, however, with the proposal for a 90 day period of pre-charge detention in terrorist cases, and was one of the Labour MPs who voted against that last year.
You will no doubt be aware there is currently a proposal under discussion to raise the 28 day limit to 42 days. While I am of course open to all reasonable argument, I have certainly not been convinced of the case for this extension, and at present I do not intend to support it.
And so, in response…i decided to get it all off my chest!:
Dear Mark Lazarowicz,
Many thanks for the personal reply, and i appreciate that combating terrorism is a difficult process.
However, i do not belief that people’s human rights should be infringed for the supposed benefit of society. I believe that a democratic government and fair justice system are necessary ingredients for a successful country in the world today. Removing people’s basic rights for the protection of others is putting ourselves on a slippery slope towards imprisoning everyone for their own protection! Not that i can see this happening, but it certainly appears to be the direction the country is headed. The steps may be small, but the path only leads in one direction. I believe that taking sufficient time to look at the causes of our current ‘war on terrorism’ (from the most neutral perspective possible) and spending significantly more energy on ensuring that the same problems do not repeat themselves in the future is the best way to national security.
I am in no way professing to have the answers or detailed knowledge on the subject, but the fact that our government has spent a great deal of time meddling in the affairs of other countries over the past few hundred years (and indeed longer) inevitably creates a situation where some people resent us. I believe that a change of course towards helping countries in need without the aim of profiting from their natural resources or installing a puppet government is the best way to ensure the future stability, integrity and ultimately safety and security of our country.
The first step on this path may be to increase foreign aid to 0.7% of GDP as the government has agreed to do for over 20 years, yet still does not. A more equal world where there is less variation between the extreme poor and the super-rich, and all countries are involved in international trade with each other is almost guaranteed to create a more peaceful and respectful society. When you take away the pride, honour and hope from someone – he has little else to lose and is far more likely to believe that he will be better off in the after-life.
My apologies that this has gone slightly off-topic and become more long-winded than i anticipated, but i hope that you will take the time to read it.