MPs warned on Terror Bill

Lawyers claim anti terror laws show lessons of Northern Ireland have notbeen learnt

Report on a meeting held on Tuesday  11 October,  7-9pm, Grand Committee Room, House of Commons

Lawyer Louise Christian accused the government of failing to learn the lessons of Northern Ireland with its introduction of new anti terror laws. Ms Christian, who represented a number of those detained in Guantanamo Bay, predicted that "there will be a rise in miscarriages like the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four."

Addressing a House of Commons meeting the human rights lawyer drew further parallels with Ireland predicting that the operation of the anti-terror lawswill lead to the creation of an unbridged divide in the community. "People won't co-operate with the police as happened in Northern Ireland," said Ms Christian.

She also criticised the government's plans to extend the period that the police can detain people without charge under anti-terror laws from 14 days to 3 months. "For the whole of the period of the Troubles with the IRA the limit on detention was 7 days. The idea that you need three months to analyse evidence is a nonsense," said Ms Christian.

She suggested that the new measure marked a return to the oppressive approach of the Birmingham Six period when in their case they were beaten upuntil they said what the police wanted to hear.

Michael Mansfield QC mapped the history of anti-terror law during the conflict in Northern Ireland when after each atrocity new anti-terror measures were introduced. "This was done to give the public a false sense of security. None of these anti-terror statutes have made the slightest bit of difference. These measures have not prevented terror, helped the detention of terrorists or protected people," said Mr Mansfield.

The human rights lawyer claimed there were more than enough powers to dealwith terrorism under the ordinary criminal law and the new measures were passed simply to give the public the impression that something was happening. "The question to ask the MPs is how any of these new measures would have prevented the bombings of 7 July, said Mr Mansfield. He recalled how the ricin trial earlier in the year when eight of the suspects were cleared had been used as a reason to justify three month detention of suspects by the police. "The suspects were detained for two years in that case and now they have been put back in prison on the basis of what they were cleared of," said Mr Mansfield.