Tuesday, 14 October 2008

42 days - down and out

As expected their lordships in the Upper House crushingly defeated that part of the Counter-Terrorism Bill that would have extended the pre-charge detention period to 42 days. Apparently Home Secretary Jacqui Smith got a bit stroppy about this when she made an emergency announcement yesterday evening stating that this controversial aspect will now be dropped. Even if Brown was to invoke the Parliament Act there just wouldn't be a guarantee that it would get through the Commons again. Trying to recover something from the shambles Jacqui Smith said that a separate draft bill re 42 days would be prepared so that it could quickly be enacted if needed in the future.

In reality the defeat in the Lords is a real snub to Brown as he had staked a lot on it, he may now be ruing the various offers he allegedly made to various MPs at the time of the earlier vote when he was trying to get them on board. There is another aspect of the bill that has been dropped I'm pleased to say: a proposal to ban the public from a coroner's inquest in the interests of national security and also the option of the Home Secretary being able to replace a coroner with their own appointee. Freedom lovers will have to be vigilant though because the ages-old coroners system is likely to be reformed and these ideas from the government may well resurface.

Mentioning inquests reminds me of the discredited Hutton Enquiry convened to look into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly. A proper inquest was never carried out. Just a reminder then of how we were sold short to cover the government's back:
  • A proper inquest would have had the power to order witnesses to attend (Hutton wasn't able to do this)
  • A proper inquest would have ensured evidence was given under oath (This didn't happen under Hutton)
  • A proper inquest into a death surrounded by such controversy would almost certainly have been attended by a jury. In the case of Hutton we only have the say so of one doddery old judge that Kelly committed suicide.
If the original proposal in the Counter-Terrorism Bill ever saw the light of day again then there is a risk of another whitewash episode.

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