28-Day Terrorism Detentions to End


The Government is to scrap the police’s power to hold individuals suspected of terrorism offences for 28 days. The 28-day period is the longest in the western world. As yet, there has been no announcement confirming the revised time limit, however. The previous Government was criticized substantially by civil liberties groups for introducing the law, but it defended the decision on the basis that it was necessary because of the increased threat to global security.
One option Ministers are considering is to halve the period to 14 days, but to give police the ability to bail subjects during a second 14-day period. Currently, the police have no power to bail a suspect during the 28-day detention period and can only decide during that time whether to charge or release the detainee.

The decision will not be taken lightly, however. Opponents of the move are warning that it could mean that dangerous individuals are released before the police have had the opportunity to question them fully about their suspicions. Another potential alternative is the reduction of the maximum detention period to 21 days, on the basis that in the last four years there has not been a single case in which a person has been held beyond this period of time.
The maximum detention period has changed dramatically in the last decade. Before 2000, terrorist suspects could only be held for 24 hours – the same as other suspected criminals. This was increased to 7 days in the 2000 Terrorism Act, and to 14 days under the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The 2006 Terrorism Act raised the limit to 28 days. The Labour Government considered 42 days, 56 days and 90 days, but was unable to pass any of these proposals into law.

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