This Week were talking about…42 day detention

Lawyers have been following the extension of the pre-charge detention period to 42 days, which was narrowly passed in the House of Commons on Wednesday of last week (11 June).

Under the bill, terrorism suspects could be held in custody for a maximum of 42 days without charge, arguably running counter to habeus corpus and other basic English constitutional rights.

In jurisprudence on the rule of law, lawyers are said to be the protectors of the constitution by practising within and upholding it. Take Pakistans legal profession for instance, which has been taking to the streets to protest against the sacking of top judges by the regime and for the rule of law.

In the UK, this does not appear to have happened but debate is taking place.

Expressing his personal opinion, not that of the firm, Clifford Chance London litigator and pro bono partner Michael Smyth said: I think my professional body, the Law Society got it right, referring to a Law Society statement earlier this week that it was not convinced by the arguments put forward in favour of extending the pre-trial detention period (The Lawyer, 10th June).

Its not clear that the case for 42 days has necessarily been made out and its particularly telling that no such period exists in US law.

Also expressing his own opinion, however, DLA Piper joint chief executive Nigel Knowles said he would have no objections to it whatsoever.

Helena Kennedy QC of Londons Doughty St Chambers was a little more vocal and said that most of the lawyers who support [the extension] do so for political reasons with their own party.

You dont come across very many, apart from those who are prepared to support it because of tribal loyalties.

Kennedy added: Ive opposed these extensions all the way through. I think that they are an affront to fundamental rights. But the reality is that the House of Lords will take very strong opposition to this. Kennedy will be one of the ringleaders of that opposition.

Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court recently ruled that detainees at the Guantanamo Bay camp have the right to challenge detention in a Federal court.

Both legal systems are grappling with huge civil liberties issues, said Clifford Chance US pro bono litigation partner Warren Feldman.

In the US we are starting to see the pendulum swing back from infringement on basic human rights. The Supreme Court decision demonstrates this.

Sadly terror concerns are a reality, but we need to return to the foundations that the UK and US were built upon and redress the balance of protecting society and civil liberties.