Should police be able to hold terror suspects for up to three months without charge?
Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended proposals to strengthen the UK's anti-terrorism laws.
His comments follow Home Secretary Charles Clarke's calls for police powers to be extended to hold terror suspects, despite concerns from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
Police arrested seven foreign nationals in London and Manchester on Thursday under powers allowing deportations for national security reasons.
Did you witness the police raids in London and Manchester? Do the measures go far enough? Do you think three months is too long to be held without charge?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
The following comment reflect the balance of opinion we received:
People seem to be forgetting that our rights are there to defend democracy. Detaining people without trial or proper evidence is one of the things that signify a dictatorship. Once you start down that road it is only another step to lock people up for disagreeing with the government which is why I find the comments of Roland Whittaker (Coventry) very scary.
Francisco, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
How does overturning the entire basis of English law "innocent until proven guilty" helping anyone? The European Court of Human Rights won't like it and most judges think it's ridiculous as well. If it's illegal, condemned and opposed by those who will reside over the eventual trials and against basic UK law then why is it even being proposed?
I think it comes down to the same argument. If you aren't misbehaving then what do you have to worry about? I trust our security services and police forces to use these powers against the people they are designed to be used against. What motivation do they have to waste time tracking, apprehending and expelling people who are not related to terrorism?
Thomas Brown, Oxford, UK
With the use of DNA it is so easy to fit someone up to a potential crime or association with illegal practices, we have to be careful what we let the powers at be get away with.
Paul Doherty, United Kingdom
One can only assume the government reasons that terrorists cannot threaten our civil liberties if they no longer exist.
James Owen, Nottinghamshire
As is said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Of course it makes sense to hold terror suspects to prevent them causing problems, it also makes sense to satellite chip every person so we can tell if someone was at the scene of a crime, next of course it makes sense that if you were at a scene of a crime you should be held until its proved who committed the crime. Step by step we are going to abandon all human rights. Once you have taken the first step it is way to easy to take another.
Jamie Ferguson, Edinburgh, Scotland
This is internment wrapped up as something else. It defies convention that has existed since Magna Carta that a speedy trial rather than holding a prisoner for long periods under duress is the priority. Further the curbs on Freedom of debate and the drawing up on what is an act of terror or liberation is sinister in the extreme. George Orwell never dreamt a thought crime would happen here. Imagine friends reporting friends and saying the wrong thing at a party or over a drink and getting the knock on the door.
We are talking about detaining suspects for three months without charge. Surely the basis of law in any civilised country is the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty? If you do not think you have a case against someone, you should not arrest him/her.
Max, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Yes it is fully justified, without any doubt. People are under the misapprehension that the police will kidnap people for three months, that is not the case. A district judge will have to review the prisoner's status every week, and the onus is on the police to provide a reason as to why they need to hold the suspect for longer. I simply don't understand why people do not want to ensure that they and their loved ones are as safe as possible?
Reading these comments makes me so sad. I see the terrorist may be winning after all. They have apparently convinced most people that freedom and liberty are not important. The UK is now following the US in abandoning the very freedoms it claims to be championing in Iraq and elsewhere around the world. At one point people said things like, "give me liberty or give me death." It is sad that times have changed so.
David Stewart, New York, USA
This is just one more smokescreen to distract attention from the real political issue about deportation. No matter how long the police hold onto terror suspects and no matter what recommendations judges may make about their ultimate deportation - all that comes to nothing while the Human Rights Act remains unchanged. The standard of evidential proof required, that an individual is at risk of torture in his home country, is so low as to make it virtually impossible for Human Rights judges to send these people back. This problem is not confined to terrorism. It is and has been at the root of the government's failed and failing asylum policy for a long time.
Bob, Almeria, Spain
I agree with Shaun from London, England, how many of these supporters of terrorism are we the tax-paying public keeping. As far as I'm concerned anyone who supports or condones these acts of terrorism then yes deport them and seize any assets they may have to pay for the fare.
It is easy in the aftermath of a terrorist action to panic and introduce 'quick fix' badly thought through countermeasures. We need to stand back and carefully consider all aspects of our way of life and try to assess the long term view, before introducing changes to our legal framework. Sadly, we no longer have the experienced, deep thinking politicians of the past, who would have reacted in a more measured and calming, but no less positive way. Instead we have politicians who seem bent on instilling even more fear in us than the terrorists themselves.
Andrew Merchant, Bristol, England
One thing's for sure. Leaving fanatics (and their supporters) at liberty to plot, bomb and kill results - always - in bombings and killings. If that's good for civil rights, race relations, and society as a whole, then I'm a banana.
David, Leicester, UK
No terrorist organisation, let alone one as dispersed and diffuse as the one we face, has ever been defeated by force and a criminal justice crackdown. Causes have to be addressed, not symptoms. Once an individual has already decided that the only way to achieve what they want is through terrorism, it is already too late. These anti-terror plans are therefore worthless - a sop to public opinion.
William, London UK
I think 3 months is fine, we are living in a rapidly changing world and the authorities need time to do their jobs properly not under unhealthy pressure.
David Webb, Thessaloniki, Greece
Yes I feel the time is essential so our Intelligence services can properly investigate the terror incidents and not be rushed.
Mike Moran, Burley-in-Wharfedale, England
I am happy with whatever measures the government of the day decide on to protect the inhabitants and innocent visitors of this country. Anybody who threatens our human rights should be dealt with severely, or deported instantly. I am sure that 99.9% of the population would agree with this, if the politicians would be kind enough to ask the question.
Bryn Hudson, Sedgley, England
They go too far. We are getting more like the US. Knee-jerk reactions, out of proportion and locking all the doors. When will we start using our heads in these situations instead.
Paul Bartlett, Milton Keynes, UK
The only people complaining are those who have something to fear. All true British citizens will support any government action to rid this country of those that would cause problems. The rights of the citizens of Britain far out way the rights of some foreign national who might or who might not be ready to cause problems. There is too much concern about what might happen to those deported when more concern should be taken to protect the 54 million people that are happy to live here!
Roland Whittaker, Coventry, England
Anything that allows the government and security forces to identify suspects and prevent them from being a threat can only be a positive step forward. Knowing who the terrorists are isn't the problem, proving it is, so we must not pander to over sympathetic civil liberty groups - if someone chooses to support terrorist aims and actions why should we worry how they are treated after we have deported them - they are quite happy to enjoy people dying as a result of their 'cause'.
Our country has survived much worse attacks than that of 7 July without abandoning the principles of freedom and justice for all. This is legislation driven by fear, not sense. We are not so spineless that we have to give up all our rights to be safe. Or has everyone forgotten the 'not afraid' mantra of 8 July already?
Tom Wiltshire, Leeds, UK
You get less time in prison for assault - and that's after a trial! Increase surveillance budgets and track suspects, but you can't imprison people until you have sufficient evidence, simply rounding up a particular type of people to see who might crack under pressure is not acceptable.
New powers are needed, if only to make sure that we are protected from the people who hide behind the protection of our current laws so they can blow us up! If the legal system would face up to the fact that the victims have rights as well as the terrorist, but of course when you are dead, killed by a terrorist so are your human rights.
Paul, Milton Keynes
I find it abhorrent that this government is stopped from protecting its citizens in case it upsets the bleeding heart liberals. Just get on with it, other European countries deport without all this fuss, why can't we?
I think that this nation needs a strengthening of the laws to protect us all. This however can only work if we also alter our socialisation process to make our society inclusive of other cultures and religions. By leaving some of our citizens on the fringes of mainstream British society we are defeating ourselves. Citizen classes for every child would be a good start. Closing schools who refuse to teach our children how to be good British citizens and what it means to be British. I firmly believe that this government has our interests at heart with these new proposals and as a law abiding citizen I have nothing to fear from them.
Sharon McGonigal, Ayrshire
It's easy to say, lets treat the bad guys tough and frankly, I have no sympathy to spare for the civil rights of suicide bombers or those who encourage others to become them. But, like shoot to kill, the problems arise with identifying the right people. Don't forget that shoot-to-kill was supposed to keep us "safe from terrorism" yet its sole victim to date was an innocent civilian who turned out to be a threat to no one. We aren't going to keep anyone safe by locking up the wrong people and these laws seem bound and determined to remove every safeguard that prevents us doing just that!
Ellie, Edinburgh, UK
Seems like a backside covering policy. Unlikely to prevent future attacks. The fact that the other main parties are hesitant should be enough to make people think again about supporting Blair on this one.
Terrorists and those who would spread and incite extremism are clearly not the kind of person that taxpayers' money should be supporting. Human rights is one of the cornerstones of western civilisation and there is an argument that by eroding away at civil liberties is giving way to the extremists, however, I would argue that the government must toughen our laws because we cannot simply allow them to use our system of rights and liberties against us to gain access and social benefits whilst inciting others to kill, maim and spread their hateful message. Accountability is the key, stronger measures are welcome in my view as long as we retain a degree of accountability and new powers are not without checks.
Dave Gleeson, Liverpool, England
These new measures do nothing more than drive movements that are already shrouded in mystery further and further underground. Are we now going to discourage bookshops from selling 'Mein Kampf' or is it solely going to target the already marginalised Muslim community. The way these laws are going the Koran is going to be banned next. My mother escaped Hungary in the revolution because of the incredible censorship and terror inflicted upon her under the communists, the question is where are these people who are being targeted as figures of hate in an ever polarised society going to go?
Bianca Eichler, Southampton, UK
Why can't the government see that this type of draconian law drives people to become terrorists because of perceived injustices. The answer to the terrorist threat is to gather evidence and try the individuals in open court. Internment didn't defeat the IRA and it won't defeat al-Qaeda either.
Carl, Cambridge, UK
The reason why we were a society with so many freedoms was because after 2,000 years of blood, sweat and tears we had reached a point where we had one of the most civilized and law-abiding societies in the world. If we clear out these people who live here of their own free will, abuse our hospitality and then try to destroy our hard fought for civilised society, we can revert to our original freedoms.
Megan Kelsey, Stroud
Let's not forget that the police have requested that their powers are extended for them to gather evidence. I am a bleeding heart liberal but even I support these measures.
Having 'nothing to hide' or being a 'law-abiding citizen' only protects you if you still have human rights.
Alwyn, Leicester, UK
When internment without trial was used in Northern Ireland it resulted in a massive increase in support for the IRA as hundreds of innocent people were imprisoned. Now Blair wants to do the same thing and some people here are supporting him. Have we learned nothing?
Curtin Alleyne, London, England
Absolutely dreadful! The only way to defeat terrorism is to have good intelligence - passing ever more draconian legislation plays right in to the terrorist's hands and is their best recruiting tool.
This is yet more poorly thought-out knee-jerk legislation by our government. By holding someone for 3 months without trial you are without a doubt infringing on their human rights. This bears a chilling resemblance to the way in which dictatorships such as Myanmar operate by targeting "undesirables" and those who speak out against the government. I am utterly appalled and dismayed it should even be considered. The anger these people feel for us is a direct result of the continuing policy that we have conducted in the Middle East and elsewhere for the last century.
Stuart, Glasgow, UK
As usual the government have come up with half-baked proposals. Like in the latter days of the past conservative government they are poor in policy presentation. Detention should not be for more than one month. After this extension periods should be subject to review. What is glorifying terrorism and where does this stop, will I be able to wear my Che Guevara tee shirt in public? There needs to be more definition or the whole thing will be discredited.
Paul Leslie, Perth, Scotland
Too little, and far too late! The government should have acted sooner to protect its citizens and to remove these evil people from our society. The only way to deal with these extremists is to neutralise by deportation or imprisonment (indefinitely). By their evil actions, these extremists position themselves outside our society, and thereby forego any rights afforded by society.
Trevor, London, UK
How can anyone here object to these measures that are intended to try and keep us safer? These measures are still too mild and long, long overdue. Anyone, yes anyone, who condones terrorism in any form should not have the right to live in Britain, No exceptions.
Michael Mciver, Hastings England
To answer Chris Day with a question - how many innocent people have to be shot or imprisoned unjustly by police before we wake up to the fact that these new laws are dangerous - but by then it will be too late, as power, once granted is almost impossible to take back.
Martin, England, UK
This is totally obscene. Add to that the recent defence of the shoot to kill policy and you tell me what you think we are turning into? This has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with state control.
Tony, Welling, Kent
I can't believe the number of people commenting on here who are condemning these new measures out of hand. Have you all forgotten the 7 July attacks already? How many innocent people in this country have to be slaughtered before we wake up to the fact that our existing laws are not working?
Chris Day, Oxford, United Kingdom
I'm no bleeding-heart liberal, and I'd have no problems with this proposal if I thought that the "right" people were going to be targeted. Problem is, we have a long and inglorious history in this country of arresting and imprisoning the wrong people. I'd want to see really strong safeguards to protect the innocent, and a mechanism for those wrongly detained to gain redress, before I would support this idea.
As far as I am aware murder and plotting to murder are already illegal. Why do we need more laws?
Peter Howe, Milton Keynes, England
I'm not convinced giving up our freedoms to protect ourselves from those who wish to violate our freedom makes sense. These proposals make fools of us all.
Ross Cooper, Livingston, Scotland
Could all those who say that three months detention without charge is acceptable please confirm that they, personally, would be prepared to be detained in such a fashion if the security services decided to suspect them of terrorism?
Jon G, Huddersfield UK
This may seem at first, a quite reasonable way to treat terrorists, but can you imagine how this could destroy an innocent person's life? To be locked up God knows where, for 3 months on mere suspicion, is a horrendous prospect for our freedom. You could lose everything, job, probably your house with no income coming in, friends and perhaps even family. There have been 100s of people arrested already under anti-terrorism laws but only a handful has ever been charged. This plays into the hands of the terrorists who will hail this as another example of how badly we treat Muslims, because it will be them that this is used against.
Dave, Newcastle under Lyme, England
Until we have a clear definition of what is categorised as "terror" or "terrorism" these powers would give to much power to the police. If I express sympathy for the Palestinians fight for justice or people fighting to free their country from occupation can this be interpreted as supporting terrorism?
John, Warrington, Cheshire
Three months detention without charge is a jail sentence by another name. How will they define 'acts preparatory to terrorism' - in the US, Muslims who filmed Disneyworld while on holiday there were charged with preparing for acts of terrorism as prosecutors claimed they were scouting bomb sites. How will they define 'glorifying terrorism'? Looking at the wrong website? Saying the wrong thing in public? Perhaps arresting all those people who will be 'glorifying terrorism' on 5 November.
Colin Craig, Snitterfield, Midlands, UK
I believe our prime minister promised that we would stand strong against terrorism and not let them change our way of life or what we believe in. Well Mr Blair, time has come to show you mean business. Are you going to sit by and watch while the terrorists force us into giving up the rights we believe in, or are you going to stick to your promise? It pains me that I expect the former. Please prove me wrong.
Jonatan Ring, Coventry, UK
Terrorism has always been there and always will be. When one terrorist is caught there is always another to take his/her place. Does it really matter how long we hold people for? Currently, this whole issue means that the police are unavailable to solve other crimes (and the criminals know it). It can only get worse!
Rob, Corby, England
This amounts to detention without trial. Either someone has committed a crime or they have not. If someone is an "undesirable" legislation exists to deport them, if someone has committed a criminal act they are entitled to a fair trial.
Matt Munro, Bristol, UK
So let me get this straight. With no evidence whatsoever, this man can decide I might be preparing to do something, kick down my door in the middle of the night, drag me off, and lock me up for 3 months with no trial? Is this the "freedom" my grandfather fought for? If they know these people are terrorists, try them. Anyone who believes that those who've done nothing wrong have nothing to fear better start gathering the proof of their innocence. From where Mr Clarke stands we are all guilty already.
Matt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ex-UK)
We have to question why the government wants to detain people for up to three months. Are the police incompetent? The new offences are often so vague as to be near meaningless - and deportation for national security reasons can be as simple as someone called Charles Clarke taking a dislike to you. These reforms are a victory against our way of life and is a massive success handed to Al Qaeda by our own politicians. I am appalled at present government policy.
Martin, London, UK
The police have more than enough powers as it is. Just use the laws that are already on the books rather than introducing yet more ill thought out legislation.
Jan, Guildford, UK
Holding a terror suspect for up to three months without charge is not too much. This will allow authorities to conduct an in-depth investigation and background check on the individual. Terrorism is not like shoplifting. Since terrorist have an international network, it will take time for authorities to find out whom they are connected to and under which umbrella they are operating. With the London, Madrid and New York incidents, three months is not too long to hold a suspect. We must not mortgaged our safety in the name of rights.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA
No, they do not go far enough, because they do not include deportation and refusals to admit procedures. How is it that someone can come here, preach freely about destroying our society whilst being paid benefits and given houses and cars, yet not be deported instantly? However, in other supposedly less civilised countries than ours, our football hooligans get into a fight and are instantly deported. There is something wrong somewhere - these people should be deported - even back to countries that would torture or execute them because it's their choice to be as they are and they must accept the consequences.
Shaun, London, England
Ultimately, the more powers we give the police, the more help we give to the terrorists. The more we portray this situation as a 'war', the more they will feel like soldiers and martyrs, and the easier it will be to find recruits. Just as with the war in Iraq, we're dancing to Osama's tune.
Paul, London, England
We have yet to see anyone deported. The majority of British people want to see action. We do not vote for judges and lawyers and they must submit to the democratic will of the people
John, Dunmow, Essex
I fully support the anti-terror measures that the Government wishes to enforce. Suspects are suspects for a reason and the government should be allowed to exercise whatever measures it deems necessary to protect the law-abiding citizens in this country.
Terrorism is not a new phenomenon and the police and security services already have a wide range of powers to deal with it. Why do they need more? Once civil liberties are given away they are seldom given back. I think we should strongly resist any erosion in our legal rights because of a few recent events (which are in any case mainly a reaction to a war launched by our own government).
Chris Bright, London UK
The government have the responsibility to protect the public against events such as July 7th. It is also important that we all remain vigilant. I think it is both necessary and right to hold terror suspects for up to three months without charge. Terrorism is likely to increase - we have been warned enough by those responsible for this type of murder. I cannot understand how people can be allowed to speak out against our way of life in this country and be left to get on with it, this has to stop.
Fred, London, UK
I find it abhorrent that Charles Clarke is now the judge, jury and executioner of those suspected of a crime. What if someone wanted to oppose Tony Blair and New Labour? Would that make us criminals on such ambiguous measures of criminality?
Holding a "bad person" for three months while gathering evidence sounds OK to some, but how does holding innocent people for three months sound to you, especially if you are unlucky enough to be one of them?
Martin, England, UK