Britain unveils terror law proposals

Britain unveils terror law proposals

1/24/2008, 12:42 p.m. PST

By D’ARCY DORAN

The Associated Press

 

LONDON (AP) — The British government revealed sweeping plans Thursday to toughen terrorism laws, including a proposal to hold suspects for up to 42 days without charge.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s plan would increase the limit for detaining suspects without charge from 28 days to 42 days and urge judges to impose stiffer sentences on criminals whose offenses are linked to terrorism.

The proposal also calls for creation of a specialist national database to store DNA samples from suspected terrorists.

<!– if (parseFloat(navigator.appVersion) == 0) { document.write(”); } –> Samples are not currently added to a national database holding DNA information on criminals, meaning officers cannot search quickly for potential matches to other evidence.

The Home Office said officials with access to the database would be vetted and subject to a comprehensive audit trail.

Current laws allow top law enforcement and customs supervisors to authorize the covert collection of DNA from suspects.

Human rights groups oppose proposals to increase the maximum time terrorism suspects can be held by police. So do lawmakers within Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, guaranteeing a vicious fight in Parliament.

Smith said in an interview on British Broadcasting Corp. radio that the detention period had to be extended because the severity of the terrorist threat has often forced police to act before they had all the evidence needed for a conviction.

“It’s growing in scale. It’s becoming more complicated in nature,” she said. “People need to intervene earlier because of the way in which it aims to cause mass casualties with no warning.”

Opponents of the changes — including Britain‘s chief prosecutor and a former chief legal adviser to the government — claim no evidence has been produced to support an extension of detention limits.

Only 34 Labour lawmakers would need to vote against the measure to defeat it, and a survey of the party’s lawmakers by The Independent newspaper last month indicated that at least 38 were vowing to oppose extending detention limits.

Tony Blair suffered a humbling first parliamentary defeat as prime minister in 2005 when lawmakers rejected his plan to increase the limit to 90 days, settling on a compromise of 28 days.

The bill also laid out how much the government has committed to spending on counterterrorism. It provided police with $926 million for counterterrorism work last year and an additional $1.4 billion was allocated in October. The government said that funding would increase over this year and next year.

An additional $88 million has been allocated to more than 70 local authorities to spend over the next three years on projects aimed at tackling extremism.

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On the Net: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/news/counter-terrorism-bill-08

http://www.oregonlive.com/newsflash/index.ssf?/base/international-26/1201190806116530.xml&storylist=world

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