Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Adams concern at detention period

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams is concerned at the length of time suspects can be held

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said people being held by the PSNI beyond "human rights best practice" should be "charged or released".

A 37-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy have been held by police investigating the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll since 10 March.

It is the longest anyone has been in custody without charge since internment.

Eleven people are being held after the three murders in Antrim and Craigavon.

The PSNI were granted extensions at the weekend to continue questioning a man and a woman in connection with the murder of Constable Carroll, who was shot dead by the Continuity IRA in Craigavon on 9 March.

Under the Terrorism Act 2006, police are allowed to detain terror suspects for up to 28 days without charge.

Aideen Gilmore of the Committee on the Administration of Justice outlined the process the police had to go though in order to obtain extensions to the period suspects could be held.

"The police apply to a judge for an extension saying that they need more time to obtain relevant evidence or present relevant evidence," she said.

"They have to have reasonable grounds for that application to be successful. The person who has been detained can be informed of that but likewise the judge can exclude them from any part in that hearing or receiving the information."


Ms Gilmore also expressed her concern at the length of time the 37-year-old man and 17-year-old boy had been detained by police investigating the murder of Constable Carroll.

"I think it is particularly worrying that there is a 17-year-old being detained for such a long period of time - 13 days," she said.

"We would have questions over the conditions of that detention.

"These persons are being detained and don't have access to proper recreational facilities. We would have questions on what impact that would have psychologically, especially with a 17-year-old who is particularly vulnerable."

Both the DUP and Ulster Unionists have backed the police.

The DUP's William McCrea said: "It is for the police to say what resources they need and it is for elected politicians to battle to get those resources for them.

"We must not second guess the police as they seek to do their duty."

Basil McCrea, of the UUP, said: "Whilst the human rights of those arrested should be respected, it is also important that the chief constable uses all the powers within the law to bring the perpetrators of these recent murders to justice.

"Any further attacks risk unravelling the fragile peace and plunging Northern Ireland back into the dark days."

Mr Adams said those arrested had the right to "basic human rights" protections.

"If there is evidence which exists against somebody, then that person should be charged and the evidence put before the courts, " he said.

"If no such evidence exists then that person should be released. That is the democratic standard which most be adhered to."

Responding to similar criticisms from Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey last week, the PSNI said it did not "create legislation" but enforced "the law as it is enacted".

"When investigating any crime we will use all legal means to bring those responsible before the courts," a PSNI spokeswoman said. "This we do in compliance with European Human Rights legislation."

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