Categorized | Civil Liberties

The Meaning of 42

The Meaning of 42

According to ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, 42 is the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. But for the Government, 42 is more a problem than an answer.

Given that the number of days a suspect spends in detention before trial is a not a scientific exercise but an uneasy compromise, how can it be that 42 has achieved the status of a threat to the leadership of the government? While there has been much agonising , soul searching and almost daily concessions to get the provisions through Parliament, the actual number itself seems to be sacrosanct. All this for a proposed law which may be needed one day in the future, may never be used at all, and would affect very few people.

The police have apparently provided examples of circumstances which would justify the 42 days, but even they have not claimed that any terrorist has escaped justice because 28 days was not enough. The Security Services don’t want it, former senior Law Officers have spoken against it – even those who supported the Government in the previous 90 day vote – and almost all others in the know (but not on the Government payroll) agree that there is no evidence backing 42 days. The current level of 28 days is more than other members of the European Union consider necessary, despite being equal targets for terrorism. Their criticism of the British proposals has been robust and concerted.

Writing in the ‘Guardian’, Marcel Berlins says 42 is symbolic. “It represents all the government’s excessive anti-terrorist legislation; detention without charge or trial; the steady erosion of the rule of law; and the nibbling away of civil liberties. The resistance of the Labour rebels is not based on a calculation of how many weeks is appropriate. It is a statement encompassing the whole of Labour’s anti-terrorist policy. Enough is enough.”

Come back Douglas Adams. Your country needs you.

This post was written by:

- who has written 460 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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