Anti-Terrorism Laws

Last week the government faced problems not just as a result of David Blunkett’s resignation, but also through opposition to their anti-terrorist legislation, specifically plans to increase the length of time the police can hold terrorist suspects without charge to 90-days. Last Wednesday the government’s majority on the terrorism bill fell to just 1 and only the offer of a compromise avoided a government defeat on David Winnick’s amendment. The irony is that, according to the latest YouGov poll, the government’s position has the support of the public.

YouGov’s poll for Sky News shows that 72% of people support the extention of the period that terrorist suspects can be held to 90 days, either unconditionally or with the consent of a senior judge – a position that the government has already indicated that it will accept. Only 16% supported the 28-day limit in David Winnick’s amendment, with 6% favouring an even shorter limit.

The government also seem to be winning the broader argument on terrorism laws – 71% of YouGov’s respondents agreed with the argument that the threat from terrorism has fundementally changed because of terrorists’ use of technology anf their willingness to commit suicide, 76% think that the police genuinely believe that the 90-day limit is necessary to fight terrorism and 61% of people think that critics of the terrorism bill are more worried about the civil liberties of terrorists than the rights of the public to be protected from terrorism.

UPDATE: Populus’s monthly poll in the Times also has a question on the 90-day detention. Populus’s question asked a straight question on whether people thought the government was right or wrong to right “to insist that the police should have the power to detain suspected terrorists without charging them for up to 90 days”, without raising the issue of the involvement of the courts. 64% thought the government were right, 32% thought they were wrong.


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