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 6:30 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) 6:30 pm, 20th May 2003

As Simon Hughes said in his concluding remarks, the judgments are difficult, and the international context in which they are set makes them even more difficult and sensitive. I agree that the civil liberties of individuals who might be suspected of terrorism is important, not least for the reasons outlined by my hon. Friend Mr. Mullin, but we have to balance that against the civil liberties of all the citizens of this country who also have a right in a democracy to expect to live their lives free from the fear and possibility of harm by people who act in that way. It is increasingly necessary to balance the public good against the rights of individuals.

It might help the House if I set out the safeguards. In trying to strike a balance, we must recognise that the context is very different from what it was some years ago, as Lady Hermon and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South said. The Terrorism Act 2000, and schedule 8 provisions for the extension of detention in particular, is subjected to PACE code C and specific codes of practice under that Act. There must be judicial authorisation after 48 hours for any extension of detention and there is access to solicitors throughout unless there is good reason to exclude that arrangement in the first 48 hours only. There is audio recording of all interviews and video recording of all interviews in Northern Ireland. There is a detention review throughout by the police and an annual review by Lord Carlile, who I am sure will examine the issue. Northern Ireland also has an independent commissioner for detained terrorist suspects.

Although that might not assuage all concerns completely, especially if they are based on points of principle, it is clear that there is a battery of safeguards. I hope that they give some comfort to hon. Members.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.