Thursday, June 12, 2008

42 Day Detention Without Charge

As you may have heard, the British government is trying to pass a bill allowing the extension of pre-charge detention time from 28 days to 42. The idea is that since terrorist plots are getting more and more complicated, having more time will allow police to pass a better case on to the Crown Prosecution Service (responsible for deciding which cases are actually taken to court).

This makes me furious!

The time allowed before charge in terrorism cases has already recently risen from 14 days to 28. That's an increase of 100%, and in no case has the 28 day limit been insufficient. Not one. There have been some that came close. Bizarrely, the Home Office page dealing with this states that the limit is still 7 days in terrorism cases, and 96 hours (only with the authority of a magistrate) in other cases. Someone needs to update that page.

I believe that there are already emergency powers available which would allow the police to hold someone for more than 28 days without charge, although I can't check this as the main website detailing these powers keeps returning a "layout not found" error. I've never had one of those before.

My problem is this. Given how pre-charge detention limits have already crept up, and the Government's history of insidiousness in other areas (for example the extension of the London congestion charge zone - not the same scale, but you see what I mean) I simply do not trust the leaders of my country to use these proposed powers in the way they say they will. I'm trying to be calm and rational, and not immediately draw comparisons to 1984, but I'm finding it difficult.

I do believe, however, that even if the Government wins the vote it will find it difficult to put these powers into practice. The BBC has a decent overview of the proposed procedure - as you can see, the Chief Constable would need to make a joint request to the Home Secretary with the Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP has already said that he feels these measures are unnecessary

The Government knows it faces a tough challenge on this, as its latest concession shows. Up to £3000 per day (according to some stories) for someone held but not charged? Right. It seems that this is a better use of funds than to actually get the case right in the first place. I'd suggest the police are given that money to have forensic evidence put through at high priority, or pay for more officers to investigate, or... really anything. I understand the police are in a difficult position, but I don't think this is the right way to help them.

And what about those people - and there are some - who would deliberately try to stay in custody for longer than 28 days in order to get the payment?

I'm not against reform; the existing system is confusing. I'm against extending how long people can be held for without charge. It's that simple. So I'm keeping an eye on this page to see how things are progressing. I've signed the petition on the 10 Downing St website and I've written to my MP (although as a Liberal Democrat she should be voting against the Government anyway). Hopefully this silly measure will be defeated.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Stuff, and more stuff

Ugh, it's been a while again. Never mind.

Here's a lovely write-up by J of her visit on Bank Holiday weekend. So much fun!

This Saturday just gone was a girly pampering day with the Mother and the Sister. For Mum's birthday (which was back in April, but never mind - we were waiting for sister to come home) we decided to take her for a relaxing day out in Chester. First we went for a facial with the Origins people at the Boots there, which was wonderful. I've been to one before, but neither of the other two had, so that was good. It's a fairly detailed process, this facial thing. First there's a skin consultation, which asks things like what kind of skin you have and any particular concerns that should be addressed. Then the girl picks out the products she thinks will be good for your skin, and explains what they all do and what they contain, and then it's on with the show. I don't remember what order she did things in but I recall her using cleanser, toner, moisturiser, a skin guardian, an eye serum, a face mask and a separate eye mask as well as having my neck and shoulders and arms and hands massaged. Pure decadence. Even sitting and reading a magazine while the others had their turn was really relaxing, since it's not something we generally do and the room is soothing, with classical music and lovely smells from all the products.

After we'd all been thoroughly cleansed, toned and moisturised in a multitude of ways Mum had make-up put on (from the same range) and we went out for afternoon tea in the Library of the Chester Grosvenor. More decadence! This is a five-star hotel and spa with its various restaurants and bars open to non-residents too. We opted for the "Grosvenor Tea", which consisted of finger sandwiches filled with salmon, tuna, beef and cheese, fruit and plain scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, and "French pastries and fancies" all served on a beautiful three-tiered platter. There was a choice of tea - I had Darjeeling, Mum had Earl Grey and we got the sister some Assam since it's the closest thing to PG Tips they'd have - and these came in silver teapots with velvet covers for the handles so as not to burn ourselves. We were sat tucked away in a corner, but the waiters were attentive and came over to offer us more of anything we wanted. We decided to have more scones, since they were delicious and that meant we could eat more of the clotted cream! Despite everything being quite small we were all stuffed by the end of it, and reluctant to leave the peace and quiet for the bustle of Chester on a sunny Saturday.

We did eventually drag ourselves home, however, taking the country roads with the roof down for pure posing power. Once home we opted to continue the theme of the day by drinking champagne in the sun in the front garden. Also delicious, and a lovely end to an unusual day.

On a completely different note, I came into work early today to avoid the fuel protest. That was successful! We did see it all later, as it came right past the window of the office. So many bikes! Fun to watch, although I'm not sure it will achieve anything. I'm also not entirely sure why it was bikers who were protesting, since they use less fuel than cars anyway (confirmed by the bikers in the office). Oh well.