Extended pre-charge detention

Under recent anti-terror laws you could be locked up and repeatedly questioned by police for up to 14 days without being charged. You might not even be told why you were there.

Pre-charge detention refers to the period of time that an individual can be held and questioned by police before being charged with an offence.

Until January 2011, for individuals suspected of terrorism, the maximum period of pre-charge detention was 28 days - more than seven times the limit for someone suspected of murder.

When the Terrorism Act 2000 was originally introduced, Parliament decided that pre-charge detention in terrorism cases needed to be set at seven days. In 2003, the Criminal Justice Act extended this period to 14 days. In 2006, after a failed attempt to increase the period to 90 days, the Terrorism Act increased the period to 28 days - subject to annual renew.

Again, in 2008, attempts were made by the Government to increase the period to 42 days - a proposal which was overwhelmingly defeated in the House of Lords and later withdrawn by the Government.

The 28-day period was renewed annually by Parliament after it was passed in 2006. In July 2010, the 28-day period was renewed again but this time for a six-month period and, in January 2011, the legislation was allowed to expire, meaning the pre-charge detention limit reverted to 14 days. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 permanently reduced the pre-charge detention period to a maximum of 14 days by amending the Terrorism Act.

Fourteen days is still the longest period of pre-charge detention of any comparable democracy. In the USA the limit is two days, in Ireland it is seven, in Italy it is four and in Canada it is just one.

Extended detention without charge flies in the face of our basic democratic principles of justice, fairness and liberty. Unjustifiable and unnecessary, it is also counterproductive in practice, alienating innocent people, their families and communities.