Ask the PM on YouTube but do you get a straight answer?

Gordon Brown recently asked members of the public to pose questions tohim on Youtube, which he’s then responded to in a Youtube clip. Rathera nice idea. One of those selected was a colleague of mine who askedabout 42 days pre-charge detention (another was about freedom ofexpression, though it didn’t make much sense to me).

Here's Anita's question to Gordon:
And here's the PM's response:

The Prime Minister assures Anita that the governments’ doing all it canto protect civil liberties. But do the ‘safeguards’ that he talks aboutactually mean anything?

Parliamentary oversight is going to be little more than a rubber stamp– MPs can’t be given all the facts about the case as it mightjeopardise the fairness of any future trial. And besides, aren’t MPsmeant to be kept out of this kind of thing – keeping the judiciaryseparate from the legislature etc?

As for the scrutiny by a judge, this isn’t up to much either.Prosecutors don’t even have to convince a judge that there arereasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed a terroristoffence – if they could do that, they could bring charges. So the powerto detain people beyond 28 days will only be applied when there is,after four weeks in detention, no admissible evidence to justify even areasonable suspicion that they have committed any criminal offence.

Finally, prosecutors can apply to have the person who is detained, andhis or her lawyer, excluded from the hearing of the application for anextension to detention.

All in all, this doesn’t come close to the protections offered bycharging someone and giving them a chance to defend themselves.

The PM also talks about the complexity of terrorism cases now faced bythe police and why they now need longer to investigate. But for veryserious crimes like rape and murder the police can only hold someonefor four days – and these aren’t exactly simple cases. And if 42 daysis so essential, how come the police have never needed more than the 28days they have already (and only needed that in a handful of cases?)

There’s a lot of chat around today about 42 days and the DDby-election, which he inevitably won by a large margin, but without amassive turnout. I particularly liked this comment on what the vote actually means for the civil liberties debate; and this one by the Secretary of the Dame Elizabeth Manningham–Buller Fan Club.

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