On the Politics Show, Sunday 28 October 2007, Jon Sopel interviewed Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.
JON SOPEL: Lord Carlile, welcome to the Politics Show.
LORD CARLILE: Thank you.
JON SOPEL: Did you know about the plans to give you more powers.
LORD CARLILE: Yes, they were actually trailed in a consultation paper that was produced several weeks ago, and I shall shortly be producing a report at the request of the government with my comments on those proposals.
JON SOPEL: What do you think of what you've seen so far, having had a chance to look at them.
LORD CARLILE: Well my report will come out very shortly and I'm not going to trail the whole of it now. However, I think there is a small number of cases, possibly a very small number, but of very important cases, for which a twenty eight day period between arrest and detention may be insufficient.
Now it's a matter for parliament, whether it wishes to create powers to detain people for more than twenty eight days. My concern is not about the number of days. The number of days is a political decision, there's no logical answer as to how many days is ideal as a maximum. I'm concerned about the quality of the process and what I shall be emphasizing is increasing the judicial scrutiny over this process of detention so that those who are innocent are protected from arbitrariness by the state.
JON SOPEL: Okay, well let's just deal with the small number of cases where you say it might need to go above twenty eight days. What has convinced you of that.
LORD CARLILE: Well if you take the example of the Glasgow Airport event, much of which is still Sub Judice, but we do know that one apparent terrorist was fatally injured, lived for twenty eight days plus, now had he survived it is possible that time for interviewing him would have run out before he re-gained consciousness. So that's one example in which twenty eight days can be insufficient. There are many others, erm, terrorists may have computer systems which are very carefully securitized and it can take a long time to even find the expertise to unsecuritize them if you'll forgive that ugly word. And then there's the complications of forensic scientific evidence in such cases, which are treated in a very special way, because of their seriousness.
JON SOPEL: You also spoke in your first answer there about there should be sufficient judicial scrutiny. What happens if you come across a case where you think there is no justification for holding somebody as long as they're being held. Where are your powers then.
LORD CARLILE: Well my view is that under an improved system, with even greater judicial scrutiny than exists at the present time, quite a number of people might well be released earlier than they are now, within the twenty eight day system, and if you give the judge or judges who are injected in to the process, sufficient powers and clear protocol to work from, then in my view, the subject, the person arrested will be safe from what I would call arbitrariness, arbitrary arrest for too long.
JON SOPEL: Yeah, the implication of that seems to me that you're saying that some people have been held for too long.
LORD CARLILE: I think it's possible that some people have been held for too long. I'm not saying that there is any individual case in which it's happened. There have been - for example, recently, there was somebody who was held for more than twenty seven, but less than twenty eight days, and then released without charge. Now it may be that that person could have been released two or three days earlier.
JON SOPEL: Because this is such a controversial issue and people get very agitated about the human rights of the person being held, what does the nuts and bolts of the scrutiny mean. What would you be doing to make sure that someone is not being held longer than they should be.
LORD CARLILE: Well I think what the government has in mind, and certainly, what I'm likely to be recommending is that they should take a senior judge, like an Old Bailey judge for example, with a lot of experience of analyzing evidence - inject that judge in to the process at a fairly early state, during the arrest and detention. He or she would then look at the material placed before them, by the police and the prosecution; would be able to ask questions, demanding answers, might even be able to call on an independent special advocate to assist with some legal issues and determine, on an on-going basis, hour by hour if necessary, whether what the police and the other control authorities are doing is justified.
JON SOPEL: Very interesting what you've said Lord Carlile, you are of course as well a former Liberal Democrat MP, now a Liberal Democrat peer. What advice would you have for your party which remains implacably opposed to any extension to twenty eight days.
LORD CARLILE: Well I make myself available to all the political parties and I will simply tell you the advice I've already given, that I think that the Liberal Democrats, along with the other political parties, ought to look at this as an issue which goes far beyond what I call big politics. It needs to be looked at on its merits, and I believe that it is, if it is looked at on its merits, then something close to the consultation paper and what the Home Secretary said last week, is probably about right.
JON SOPEL: And do you get any impression that the two leadership candidates, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne, buy that.
LORD CARLILE: I think you'd have to ask them.
JON SOPEL: Have you spoken to them.
LORD CARLILE: Well I've spoken to Nick Clegg frequently about this subject because he is the party's Home Affairs Spokesman. You will know that as Home Affair's Spokesman, he's not changed his view on this matter. But during a Leadership election, all kinds of things can happen and we'll have to see what they say about it.
JON SOPEL: Watch this space. One other thing while I've got you here, that Gordon Brown wants to introduce some kind of US style national security council, bringing together intelligence chiefs and military commanders and the senior politicians. Do you think that is a good way forward to sort of review the anti terror apparatus that we have in this country.
LORD CARLILE: I think it's an extremely good idea in principle. He's only given the sort of back of the envelope outline of it so far. When a terrorist incident takes place, the Cabinet Office Briefing Room, COBRA, goes in to work immediately. Sometimes it's not perhaps as efficient or smooth as it could be and I think a Council of the kind that's being trailed, might serve a useful purpose.
JON SOPEL: Okay, Lord Carlile, very good to talk to you. Thanks very much for being with us.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH LORD CARLILE
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The Politics Show Sunday 28 October 2007 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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