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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 February 2007, 20:48 GMT
Post-charge questioning supported
Lord Falconer
Lord Falconer said police may be allowed more time to question suspects
Police could be allowed to question suspects after they are charged, under proposals being considered by the government, the lord chancellor says.

Lord Falconer said that post-charge questioning may be "very sensible" and might not be limited to terrorism cases.

Such a change would have a relatively minor effect on civil rights, he said.

Officers cannot question a suspect once charged. Police have been pushing for longer pre-charge detention periods.

Lord Falconer was speaking after giving a speech at a Royal United Services Institute conference on politics and terrorism.

You could have post-charge questioning which is one of the things we are looking at
Lord Falconer

He hinted at forthcoming new anti-terrorism laws, saying Home Secretary John Reid had already indicated that the government would seek to extend the pre-charge detention period.

And he added: "You could have post-charge questioning which is one of the things we are looking at.

"It may be a very sensible thing to do."

'Terrorists' charter'

In November the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith also said he favoured a change in the law to allow suspects to continue to be questioned after charge.

The UK's top police officer, Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair, also backs the change.

In his speech Lord Falconer called for a change in the perception that the Human Rights Act is a "terrorists' charter".

He said human rights were not a "straightjacket", but were the values which mark society out as being "different" from terrorists.

On some occasions it would be necessary to infringe on an individual's rights for the sake of the wider community, he said.

He also told the Royal United Services Institute that lawyers should let policy-makers decide how best to confront terrorism.

"Whilst the response must be lawful, the policy-makers not the lawyers must determine that response, and whilst legislation will have its role, it will only be a part of the response," he said.

And he suggested it was time to tone down the language used in the debate about terror laws.

"We are in a struggle about values that will ultimately be decided by winning hearts and minds, and as such we must consider the impact that our counter-terrorism policy and our counter-terrorist legislation may have on the communities that we seek to protect."

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