There’s something quite bizarre about the drive to extend the period people can be detained without trial to 90 days. We’ve already had the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, admitting there hasn’t been a single terrorist case so far where more than the current 28 days limit was needed.
Today two more significant voices spoke out. First was the former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, who told the Home Affairs Select Committee that he had seen no evidence to go beyond 28 days – and that he would even have resigned from the Government to fight Labour’s attempt to get 90 days previously.
Also appearing today was Ken Macdonald, head of the Crown Prosecution Service – and so right there at the heart of decisions over whether or not enough evidence has been gathered in cases to proceed with a prosecution. His verdict? He is “satisfied” with the current 28 day limit and that he hasn’t seen any cases that would have required a longer period.
So, why oh why is Labour (or, to be fair – some parts of Labour) still so eager to increase the limit?
And why does all this matter in the end? It’s because not everyone the police arrests is guilty. Innocent people get arrested and detained too.
Extending the amount of time people can be detained isn’t just some cost-free exercise to punish the nasty; we should remember also the innocent people who get detained – locked up, separated from their families, taken away from their jobs – with who knows what to return to afterwards. That’s an awful trail of wreckage to make out of someone’s life – and no way should we risk more of that happening without an utterly convincing case as to why longer detention without trial would really help.