What is Liberty’s ‘Charge or Release’ campaign about?
Liberty’s ‘Charge or Release’ campaign opposes any extension of pre-charge detention in terrorism cases (pre-charge detention refers to the period of time that an individual can be held and questioned by police before being charged with an offence). Under current anti-terror laws you can already be locked up and repeatedly questioned by police for up to 28 days without being charged. You might not even be told why you are there. The Government is attempting to increase this period to 42 days.
Liberty believes that a further extension beyond 28 days is unjust, unnecessary and will not – as the Government has argued – make us any safer.
Remember that this is detention without charge. 42 days – 6 weeks – away from your home, your family, your life. What would happen to your job? How would your family be supported and looked after? What would be left of your reputation? How would you, or your friends and family feel about helping the police in future?
Liberty has suggested a range of workable alternatives to this proposal. There is real consensus that there is no evidence to go beyond 28 days from a broad range of opponents including parliamentarians from all three parties, security experts and civil society.
The international perspective
Liberty has obtained legal advice that shows the UK already has a longer period of pre-charge detention than comparable democracies around the world. (Canada 1 day, USA 2 days, Ireland 7 days)
How can our Government argue that we need to hold people for over a month when so many other countries manage with pre-charge detention periods of less than a week?
Any extension would not only worsen our international reputation on human rights but could also be used by some states as an excuse to pass their own unjust and over-broad measures.
Are there realistic alternatives to extending pre-charge detention?
Yes. Liberty has suggested that the following counter-terror proposals be considered as alternatives to extending pre-charge detention – but not in addition to it:
• Remove the bar on the use of intercept (phone tap) evidence because its inadmissibility is a major factor in being unable to bring charges in terror cases. Liberty welcomes the Government’s proposed Privy Council review into the use of this evidence in terror trials.
• Allow post-charge questioning in terror cases, provided that the initial charge is legitimate and there is judicial oversight. This will allow for a charge to be replaced with a more appropriate offence at a later stage.
• Hire more interpreters: Prioritise the hiring of more foreign language interpreters to expedite pre-charge questioning and other procedures.
• Add resources: More resources for police and intelligence services.
• Liberty has pointed out that emergency measures which exist under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) would allow the government to temporarily extend pre-charge detention in a genuine emergency where the police are overwhelmed by multiple terror plots. These powers would be subject to parliamentary and judicial oversight. Liberty believes that even such an extreme measure would be preferable to creating a permanent state of emergency.
For more infomation, please visit www.chargeorrelease.com
To view the ’42 writers for liberty’ calendar, please click here.
To read Jamie Doward’s ‘Writers pen protests at terror bill’, please click here.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/aboutenglishpen/campaigns/libertyschargeorreleasecampaign/