10
Nov 05

Not Petty Enough

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Sorry, I have a feeling that this might not genuinely come into the area of minor irritations. I was going to avoid this blog this month as I (like to believe I) have a kind of Zen-like calm when it comes to the little things in life, and ignore rather than rant. Or perhaps it is because I recognise myself as being one of those petty irritations and hence feel sympathetic towards people who walk at variable speeds, leave the tea-bag in or throw eggs on my front door*.

The source of this irritation is unfortunately Tony Blair. Though he would say the rise in terrorism is the actual source. So a Swoppie might counter that it is the imperialistic politics of the USA which caused it. I DON’T CARE WHOSE FAULT IT IS. But how do we go from three days without charge to a mooted ninety days without charge? How we got to fourteen days I don’t really know, but to suggest that the police might need up to six times as long to find something to charge someone with is astonishing.

The way I see police work happening (and this is probably hopelessly naive) is that the police have reason to suspect someone. They do this because they have already investigated and gathered data together. Nine times out of ten, they will arrest people and charge them pretty much straight away. However occasionally they might need to interview them, and then make a decision on charging. Then the courts come in and they need to prove it.

Under the suggested scheme they could arrest someone on next to no suspicion at all, and then spend ninety days (or twenty eight days, which is still a fair bit of time) looking for evidence. Will this improve their ability to do their job, or the quality of evidence they will get? Probably not, all it will do is allow the police to arrest people earlier in the investigation cycle.

There is unfortunately a fact of life in the police where it is much easier to convict someone after they have committed a crime. The problem is that the crimes in question are terrorist attacks (supposedly). By arresting them before they commit said crime, they prevent said crime: someones been watchin Minority Report. But then they have to prove they were going to do it. Why do they need ninety days? A cynic might say that gives them a lot of time to be tempted to fit people up.

I have seen TV dramas that depict our secret services. I have no doubt that given decent info, the security services will take people out with no care upon civil liberties. But I am equally sure that giving the police power to lock people up without a decent level of evidence is asking for trouble down the line. And no-one in the news reports as far as I could see, were even commenting on whether the extension to fourteen days has aided the police in convictions or not.

Blair tried to play chicken on this, and lost. But how much did he lose? The limit is now 28 days, a good nine times longer than it was five years ago. Was going for ninety days a way of making a failure look like a victory? Good work fellas.

*Some kids threw some eggs at my front door yesterday. My next door neighbour came round and apologized to me even though it was clearly nothing to do with her or her excellently behaved kids. Nevertheless, taking this as an admission of guilt I shall be detaining her without charge for twenty eight days because she CLEARLY KNOWS SOMETHING.

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