Some people never learn

Wahey, the Safety Elephant’s back in your in-box this evening and nice and late too – 10.04pm this time; presumably to give us bloggers as little time as possible to slaughter his lastest missive.

So without further ado, I give you the full and unexpurgated version of the Safety Elephant’s email plus my own annotations and translations (in italics)- Tim at Bloggerheads and Justin at Chicken Yoghurt have been contacted by the Paranoid Pachyderm as well, to no better effect than its had here/

Dear Colleague

Following my email last Friday I wanted to update you on the Terrorism Bill that is going to be debated in Parliament tomorrow.

That’s kind of you but really you shouldn’t. No REALLY, you shouldn’t

Last week I gave an undertaking to Parliament to try and achieve a consensus around the measures proposed in the Terrorism Bill, measures that have been put forward by the Police and Security Services to help combat the terrorist threat we now face.

Trans: We were right in the shit so I backed off rather than get nailed by that bastard Winnick’s amendment

I have now consulted widely and the position is essentially as follows:

Trans: The police are still whining about 90 days

– The leadership of the opposition parties is not prepared to discuss any time of pre-charge detention for these offences above 28 days, and have therefore decided that they cannot join the effort to find a cross-party consensus in Parliament, which I had hoped to achieve.

Trans: Howard told me to fuck off… And Kennedy.

– Many Labour MPs have spoken to their constituents and local police over the weekend, and the overwhelming majority of those who spoke at yesterday’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party expressed their support, most very strongly for the Government’s proposals for pre-charge detention of a maximum of 90 days, subject to certain conditions and safeguards. I felt that there had been a definite movement of opinion towards the Government’s position over the weekend.

Trans: Tony’s adamant that it should be 90 days and we have the whip’s office pulling double shifts to try an browbeat the troublemakers on our side into line.

Comment: Can anyone actually verify that their MP has actually spoken to their constituents about this?

Sorry to ask but it’s just I’ve just got this mental picture of Labour MPs up and down the country at their Saturday morning surgeries saying to their bemused constituents:

“Right, we’ll get to your problem in a moment, but first can I ask you – Do you find terrorists scary? Oh, you do? Right then, I’ll put you down as a yes.”

Ohh, Hold the front page. It seems Skuds was consulted – even if the working definition of ‘constituents’ here seems to equal ‘Labour Party members who turn up for a CLP meeting’ and the best Clarke can get from that audience is a 60-40 split against

Accordingly I decided to table amendments for the Report stage of the Bill to be debated tomorrow which included with the proposal for a maximum 90 days of pre-charge detention the following three groups of concessions:

Errrr. Haven’t you missed a bit here? Should that read; “Accordingly TONY decided that I must table amendments…”

a) Further safeguards for the process itself, including that a full High Court judge has to agree an extension of detention every seven days and will have greater flexibility, and that a code of practice, similar to the codes under PACE, will govern the treatment of those held under this Act.

And will have greater flexibility to do what? Or are you going to send all High Court Judges on yoga courses so they’ll have greater flexibility in general?

Hang on a second.

“…a code of practice, similar to the codes under PACE, will govern the treatment of those held under this Act”

I may be misunderstanding things here but I kind of got the impression that the codes of practice set up under PACE apply to all police detainees, irrespective of what they’ve been detained for – give or take all the SIAC stuff.

This is more important that it might first appear, the PACE codes (which you can find here) cover, amongst other things, the treatment of detainees while being interviewed by the Police. All of which begs the question as to why, when the only difference between detentions under anti-terrorist legislation and other detentions is the maximum period period of detention, do we need codes of practice similar to PACE and not just the existing PACE codes?

Suddenly I start to get the distinct suspicion that the requirement for a ‘similar’ code has nothing to do with applying tighter rules on treatment to reflect the extend period for which suspects will be detained and rather more to do with providing a more ‘relaxed’ set of rules, particularly in respect of certain interview ‘techniques’ such as sleep deprivation.

Footnote: A quick scan of the PACE codes reveals that they already do not apply to arrests under section 41 and schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 which is subject to its own code of practice; which curiously I can’t find a copy of online.

What I did find, here, is a Home Office circular covering an ECHR case (Brennan v United Kingdom) which refers to restrictions under this Act to a suspect’s right to privacy when consulting their solictor, which can be suspended if the interviewing officer believes that the consultation may result in any of the following:

a) Interference with or harm to evidence of a serious arrestable offence;
b) Interference with of physical injury to any person;
c) The alerting of persons who are suspected of having committed a serious arrestable offence but who have not been arrested for it;
d) The hindering of the recovery of property obtained as a result of a serious arrestable offence or in respect of which a forfeiture order could be made;
e) Interference with the gathering of information about the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism;
f) The alerting of a person and thereby making it more difficult to prevent an act of terrorism;
g) The alerting of a person and thereby making it more difficult to secure a person’s apprehension, prosecution or conviction in connection with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

All of which seems to cover anything the suspect could possibly discuss with his brief apart from the weather and the weekend footie results

b) Around the application and definition of the offence, including clearer definitions of incitement, narrow application of the law extra-territoriality and a review into the definition of terrorism, to be conducted within a year by Lord Carlile.

This would the be the same Lord Carlile who thinks its ok to use evidence obtained via torture as long as we’re not the one’s doing the torturing?

How reassuring. Not.

c) A sunset clause with the 90-day power which provides that these powers will lapse after one year unless renewed by both Houses of Parliament.

These are all significant changes from the original government proposals and I hope that they will mean that MPs who previously had doubts will feel able to support the Government.

Or else…

Finally, I would like to apologise for the questionnaire which was attached to the message that I sent out to party supporters on Friday. It was not intended to gauge public opinion but to start a political debate around the proposals currently being debated in Parliament. Many people have raised with me perfectly valid concerns about how the questions were drafted. I can only say that I share those concerns and give my assurance that questions of this type will not used in the future.

I guess we might just be able to chalk this one up as a win for the blogosphere. Still its worth noting a few comments on Clarke’s apology from Bloggerheads, Chicken Yoghurt, Political Hack and Recess Monkey for starters.

As for the excuse that he was only trying to start a ‘political debate’ well I tend to take the view that if you want a debate then you ask open questions that invite a range of different opinions, not send round a e-mail poll so biased that about the only thing it didn’t do was answer itself and send an automatic message of grovelling support back to party HQ.

I suppose we should at least take some small comfort from the knowledge that somewhere out there there’s a junior scutter copping for a major bollocking for making his boss look even more an idiot that usual

On the subject of polls, if you want to see what an unbiased questionnaire looks like you can try this example from Daniel at ‘the World Turned Upside Down, while musing on the Sun’s contributions to the debate at Spyblog and (again) Bloggerheads

Best wishes

Charles Clarke

Home Secretary

And finally…

The Indy goes for a cracking front page today, subjecting each of the nine arguments put forward by the Metropolitan Police in support of 90-day internments under the scrutiny of Retired senior judge, Gerald Butler, Shami Chakrabati, director of Liberty and Bob Ayers, a former US intelligence officer and associate fellow at Chatham House.

Unsurprisingly on only two of the nine points that the Met raises (encrypted computer data and obtaining forensic evidenced) does the retired judge find any merit, but…

It transpires that the sole reason that encrypted data presents a problem is because the government have not fully enacted the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act; the bit that hasn’t come into operation being the section which deals with failure to provide the Police with access to encryption keys when demanded, which otherwise would be a criminal offence and therefore grounds to hold a suspect past 14 days on a specific, if less serious, charge while they continued to investigate their activities.

The main reason why these provisions have not come in force was that they met with serious opposition due to the Act being so poorly drafted as to place innocent users in the position of potentially facing criminal charges for having forgotten a password or losing an encryption key to data corruption.

Of course, neither the Met nor the government are going to admit that data encryption is only a problem because of the government’s own poorly drafted and unworkable legislation, are they?

  • Great post. I really hope they lose today but I am not hopeful. Blair alwasys seems to be able to slip through. But its not just because I want to see Blair humiliated, the legislation itself is terrifying.

    Good spotting as well about the PACE measures.