New Clause 45 — Limit on Period of Detention Without Charge of Suspected Terrorists

Part of Criminal Justice Bill — [3rd Alloted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:57 pm on 20th May 2003.

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Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism) 5:57 pm, 20th May 2003

In making that point, the right hon. Gentleman is not taking into account the fact that we are not dealing with quite the same form of investigation. In a criminal case, a particular offence will be believed to have been committed and the investigation will be focused on evidence to support a charge for a particular event. In respect of terrorist suspects, somebody is most often arrested to prevent an event that intelligence has told the police and the security services might otherwise take place. That creates a different quality of investigation and justifies the need for allowing the police an extended period in order to put the information together.

The right hon. Gentleman may also accept that, given the incidents that these provisions are trying to prevent, the order of damage to individual citizens of this country and the sheer number of people who would be injured were a terrorist event to take place, we are talking about a level of seriousness and an impact that is beyond that of perhaps not all, but certainly most, criminal offences. That is a further justification for the provisions.

I draw Members' attention to a further example that is rather different from the average criminal case, and which does take more time. Of course, very often we are dealing with people who have been arrested as suspected terrorists, and who are using false identities or perhaps even multiple identities. As Members will appreciate, this involves the making of extensive national, and often international, inquiries. Frequently—although not always—interpreters are used, and much more so than in criminal cases. Indeed, interpreters of rather remote languages may be used. Interpreters then have to be used at all stages during the period of detention for interviews. That is another factor that can lengthen the period of time required.