The BBC story "My week as a terror suspect." highlights the case of an innocent Muslim held for 7 days under the Terrorism Act and then released without charge, and without even being told why he had been arrested in the first place, leading to social stigma in his community etc.
Some people are now starting to question this policy not just those people who are unimpressed with the Home Secretary. Even the Home Affairs Committee of Parliament is taking evidence for its Inquiry into Terrorism and Community Relations (written submissions by 14th September 2004)
"The Home Affairs Committee announced today that it will inquire into terrorism and community relations. It will consider evidence on the impact the threat of terrorism is having on community relations and social cohesion, including public concerns about the terrorist threat, the impact on relations between different sections of the community, any rise in and exploitation of racial tension, and the consequences of anti-terrorist measures.
Particular topics to be considered will include:
- the stigmatisation of minority groups publicly ?associated? with terrorism
- the incidence of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of prejudice
- media coverage of these issues
- civil liberties/policing issues."
It is a bit surprising that none of the Muslim organisations etc. have yet clubbed together to finance the legal costs of prosecuting the Police and/or David Blunkett for false arrest and/or libel in some of these cases.
There is nothing in the Terrorism Act 2000 which provides immunity from such a prosecution.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission also has new powers to investigate such instances of false arrest and any allegations of mistreatment whilst in custody.
Being arrested or even "stopped and searched" under the Terrorism Act is a traumatic experience which puts your life and that of your family in danger, given the number of firearms etc. which are normally used.
Being falsely arrested this way must be at least as traumatic an experience as a street mugging or crime of violence.
If, as is likely, genuine mistakes are made by the Police, then there should be public apologies and financial compensation to the victims.
It is possible for a police offcial or a politician to officially apologise to the victims of a false arrest, which include the person arrested and their family, friends and community, without compromising any other ongoing investigations.
The Home Office should fund this compensation, as part of the cost of anti-terrorism security measures, and in the interests of their aims and motto of "Building a Safe, Just and Tolerant Society".