City lawyers are split over the extension of the pre-charge detention period to 42 days which was narrowly passed in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Expressing his personal opinion, not that of the firm, Clifford Chance London litigator and pro bono partner Michael Smyth said: “I think my professional body, the Law Society got it right,” referring to a Law Society statement earlier this week that it was “not convinced by the arguments put forward in favour of extending the pre-trial detention period” (The Lawyer, 10th June).
“It’s not clear that the case for 42 days has necessarily been made out and it’s particularly telling that no such period exists in US law.”
Also expressing his own opinion, however, DLA Piper joint chief executive Nigel Knowles said he “would have no objections to it whatsoever”.
However, Helena Kennedy QC of London’s Doughty St Chambers said that “most of the lawyers who support [the extension] do so for political reasons with their own party”.
“You don’t come across very many, apart from those who are prepared to support it because of tribal loyalties.”
Kennedy added: “I’ve opposed these extensions all the way through. I think that they are an affront to fundamental rights. But the reality is that the House of Lords will take very strong opposition to this.”
Meanwhile the US Supreme Court recently ruled that detainees at the Guantanamo Bay camp have the right to challenge detention in a Federal court.
“Both legal systems are grappling with huge civil liberties issues,” said Clifford Chance US pro bono litigation partner Warren Feldman.
“In the US we are starting to see the pendulum swing back from infringement on basic human rights. The Supreme Court decision demonstrates this.
“Sadly terror concerns are a reality, but we need to return to the foundations that the UK and US were built upon and redress the balance of protecting society and civil liberties.”