Detention without charge

June 2, 2009

189 words
18 June 2008
The Times
Times2 3
English
(c) 2008 Times Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved

Used correctly, statistics can illuminate. Sometimes they can lie. But if no one collates them, they can do nothing. From 1990 until 2000, 237 people – 23 per cent of those detained in the UK under terrorism legislation – were kept for more than two days without charge. We know that because, to detain someone more than 48 hours, police must apply to a judge. The data is easy to collect. In raising the maximum period of detention without charge from 28 to 42 days, Gordon Brown argues that investigations take longer post-2001. Human rights groups disagree.

Well, here is a large sample and a historical dataset. If Mr Brown is right, we should see a rise in the proportion of suspects kept beyond 48 hours. Yet no one, not Liberty, the Home Office, or the Ministry of Justice, can provide the 48-hour figures after 2001. An entire debate has taken place with minimal recourse to statistics, just when they could be most useful.

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