Charge or Release
Liberty argued that there was no evidence
to suggest that an extension was necessary or justified, and suggested better
ways of meeting all the Government’s arguments for longer pre-charge detention.
concerned about the counter-productive effect that these proposals could have
on police and community relations, and the message that would be sent to the
international community if Britain
adopted such an unjust policy, so clearly out of step with comparable
plans to extend pre-charge detention were narrowly passed in the Commons in
June 2008, by 315 votes
to 306, the vote saw a huge Labour rebellion. Find out if your MP voted against 42 days.
The campaign continued to grow in strength over the
following months, and on 13 October 2008 an overwhelming defeat in the House of
Lords prompted the Government to drop the proposals, in a clear victory for
Charge or Release.
Highlights of the 42 days campaign
- We obtained advice from lawyers
and academics around the world which showed that the UK already has the longest
period of pre-charge detention in the western world. A graph displaying this stark comparison became
the central image of the campaign. Read the updated report
- A short film was
released online to promote the campaign, featuring interviews with the
fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, actor Riz Ahmed and Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti.
- Our first ever cinema
advert, featuring the voice of actor Simon Callow, was shown in cinemas
around the country. Watch it in the player above.
- Advertising billboards and newspaper adverts
displaying our comparative graph ran in towns and cities around the
country and in the constituencies of numerous MPs.
- We gathered a real consensus (PDF) with pledges of support
from prominent political figures, lawyers, NGOs, trade unions and human
rights activists including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the late
anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman, and Professor Noam Chomsky.
commissioned a YouGov poll which revealed
that 54% of the public believed that the Government’s motivation for
extending the pre-charge detention period was to look “tough on terror”.
Only 13% supported an extension to 42 days. Read the press release.
the eve of the crucial Commons vote, celebrities and politicians joined Liberty staff and
volunteers for a protest outside Parliament, where we released 42 Charge
or Release branded balloons. Have a look at our photo
the day before the House of Lords vote we launched 42
Writers for Liberty, an online anthology
of writing about the issue of pre-charge detention by 42 UK writers,
including Philip Pullman, Monica Ali, Ian Rankin, Alain de Botton and Ali
In 2010 we continued the Charge or Release campaign, arguing that the
28 day pre-charge detention limit was also unjust and unnecessary. We
called for the pre-charge detention period to be further reduced.
We argued that:
- There was no evidence that the police needed 28 days to gather information to charge suspects.
- The UK Government was able to hold terror suspects longer than any comparative democracy. Read our 2010 report (PDF) comparing equivalent limits in other countries.
days is a long time to be held in prison without being able to
challenge the evidence against you. In fact you might not even be told
why you are being held. 28 days pre-charge detention undermined British
traditions such as the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.
- It is counter-productive - lengthy pre-charge detention divides communities, it could make us less safe.
are alternatives to lengthy pre-charge detention. Removing the ban on
intercept (phone tap) evidence in criminal trials, allowing post-charge
questions and hiring more foreign language interpreters, amongst other
measures, could help in difficult cases.
MPs needed to vote every year for the 28 day period to be maintained, and in 2011 the period was allowed to revert to 14 days. The pre-charge detention limit for terror suspects was permanently reduced to 14 days by the Protection of Freedoms Act which was passed in May 2012.