Home Secretary David
Blunkett, (L)

Home secretary David Blunkett announced the new changes to the law to hold and interrogate 'terror suspects' and immediately arrest those using false passports and driving licences.

Amendments to the criminal justice bill will double the time suspects can be detained and held without charge, from seven to 14 days.

At present the police must apply to a court for an extension of up to seven days if they want to hold a suspect under 'terrorism' legislation longer than 48 hours.

"Our legislation must keep pace with increasingly sophisticated criminals and complex crimes," Blunkett said in a statement. "To close in on terrorists, the police increasingly need to analyse complex material."

The amendment enables them to apply for a further extension after seven days to hold a 'terror suspect' for a maximum of 14 days before they have to charge or release them. The court must be satisfied that the extension is required to gather further evidence.

Justifying the extension, Blunkett said it takes time to investigate individuals that may have discreet connections with networks across international boundaries.

Other countries have been quick
to follow the US lead for stricter
anti-terror laws

"While the seven-day window for the investigation of terrorist suspects is often enough, in exceptional or complex cases the police may need more time. I recognise that this important power needs appropriate scrutiny, and only a court may grant an extension to the period of detention without charge," Blunkett said.

But human rights groups are concerned that this law is another example of over-extending police powers. Mark Littlewood of Liberty, a civil rights organisation in Britain, criticised the UK government and the new amendment.

"These proposals to extend detention without charge are ill- considered, unnecessary and politically motivated. There seems to be no end to this government's tendency to rush through ever more draconian powers in order to appear tough on terror."

After the attacks of 11 September many countries followed the United States' lead and implemented controversial and tough new anti-terrorism laws that critics say impinged on civil rights.

“The sensible way to combat terrorism is to ensure our security and intelligence services become sharper and better focused. Political posturing to try and assure the public that something is being done is an unhelpful and dangerous distraction," Littlewood said.

Blunkett’s proposal is bypassing committee scrutiny and will be debated in the House of Commons on 20 May where it is expected to receive approval.