The Government have published their Amendments to be debated during the Report Stage of the contoversial Terrorism Bill 2005 this Wednesday.
There is now mention of "a senior judge" to whom the Police will have to apply to extend detention without charge beyond 14 days (a process which already reqquires a less senior judge or magistrate).
The only "concession" on the maximum period of detention without charge is to change the references from "3 months" to "90 days" - technically three calendar months could be slightly longer than 90 days.
Will the Opposition and the Labour backbench MPs manage to vote this down in favour of one of the supposed "compromises" (neither of which is right in principle either) pitched at 28 or 60 days ?
There is a Government version of a "sunset clause", which is the one which is likely to go through instead of the Opposition versions. It is astonsihing that this was not in the original text of the Bill, given that all other anti-terrorism legislatoion has had to have one inserted eventually, and that these "sunset clauses" are anyway little more than a "rubber stamp" after a year or so.
It is hard to understand if the Government's amendment of the "incitement" clauses , with wording like " is reckless as to whether or not it is likely to be so understood" will increase the number of innocent people who will be caught by this Bill, whilst at the same time the use of the word "intent" might reduces this number. It still looks like a horribly unclear and convoluted bit of legalese, which will still do little to prevent the chilling effect on acadmeic freedom and the provision of , say Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) training material.
There is some recognition of the stupidity of the demand for say, an internet website censorship notice to be complied with within 2 days, or else the directors of the company hosting the website are deemed to be in support of the offensive glorification or indirect incitement or publication of "anything useful" to a terrorist. Belatedly, the Government has now remembered about Weekends and Bank Holidays !
However, there is still no proper judicial oversight of such censorship , only the "opnion" of a police constable, which will, if the decades of experience with similar "thought crime" legislation e.g. "obscene publications", will lead to miscarriages of justice, and bring ridicule upon the police and the law.
It is hard to see if the slight change to section "17 Commission of offences abroad" makes any real difference to the apparent presumption that the UK is taking on the role of a "world policeman" and meddling in foreign conflicts which do not directly affect the security of the United Kingdom, so that we will be forced to help foreign dictatorships repress their legitimate enemies overeseas or here in the UK.
The removal of the word "neglect" in the section on corportate liability is welcome. It had been pointed out by Edward Garnier, the Conservative Shadow Attorney General, that this wording seemed to have been lifted word for word from health and safety legislation !
Since it is only these Government Amendments, and possibly a 28 day or 60 day Labour backbench amendment which is likely to be voted on, we assume that our worries about the amendment of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 by this Bill are going to be ignored by the Government and the Opposition.
The awful "catch all" clause 5 Preparation of terrorists acts, with a possible life sentence even for minor acts of terrorism, which may never actually be committed, or which may only attract a sentence of say 7 years in prison e.g. for a bomb hoax with no actual explosion. The Opposition seem to have let through this clause "on the nod".