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UK ministers, MPs deadlock over proposed 42-day terror detention without charge

[JURIST] UK ministers and MPs deadlocked Wednesday over a controversial proposed anti-terror bill [BBC Q/A] that would allow British authorities to detain terror suspects up to 42 days without charge [JURIST news archive]. Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] has vowed to continue pushing for the bill's passage, despite staunch opposition. Opposition MPs and human rights groups have suggested alternatives to extending the detention limits, but ministers have refused to drop the proposal. Current British law authorizes detention without charge for 28 days [JURIST report], but bill proponents have argued that this time-limit endangers national security. The Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 [draft text, PDF; bill materials] also includes provisions creating a registry of convicted terrorists and making terrorism an "aggravating factor" in sentencing for non-terrorism offenses. Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat MPs have opposed the legislation, fearing it could infringe on civil liberties.

UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith [official profile] first proposed a 42-day detention period [JURIST report] in December 2007. The proposal followed statements made in June 2007 by then-UK Home Secretary John Reid calling for longer pre-charge time limits, and a proposal [JURIST reports] floated last July that would have allowed the extension of the 28-day limit after a declared state of emergency and permitted judges to authorize weekly extensions for up to 56 days subject to parliamentary notification. The Scotsman has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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