Friday, December 28, 2007

Spot the Difference

Introductory train-spotting note: when I looked up Amanda Cox on Google News, the first 10 results come from only three sources. Seattle Post-Intelligencer[1] (Ms Knox is from Seattle) {5}, FOX news {1}, and the Times {4}.

Ostensibly, David raises an interesting comparison with his opening:

Yesterday, the day on which the former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer of Thoroton effectively killed the Government's 42-day detention plan, was also the 43rd day that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito spent in custody in Italy in connection with the Meredith Kercher case.
I mention Knox and Sollecito, neither of whom have been charged, because their situation casts some light on the way the debate on detention has been conducted in Britain. Readers may remember that Liberty recently released a report "carried out by lawyers and academics in 15 countries" claiming that Britain had, in effect, the most draconian detention laws in the Western world. Using the hyperbole routinely deployed on these occasions, Liberty claimed that its report "exploded self-serving assertions about extended detention in inquisitorial Europe", and made "embarrassing reading for all of us in the land that gave Magna Carta to the world".

I can't, BTW, find anything, not even in David's own paper, The Times, to corroborate the claim that neither have been charged. David is, I'm sure, a diligent researcher so he'd have read the Liberty report, especially the section on Liberty's site labeled "Notes to editors":

2.Recent reports of the Meredith Kercher investigation in Italy confused pre-charge detention with detention pending trial. The four day maximum is protected by article 13(2) of the Italian constitution and the Italian criminal code (articles 386-390)
3.There can be no doubt about the international nature of the threat from Al-Qaida-inspired terrorism. Like the United Kingdom, Spain, the US and Turkey have all suffered from terrorist attacks in recent years. Police in these countries must also face the same investigative challenges cited in support of longer pre-charge detention - the greater complexity of terror plots, their international dimension and the need to intervene and arrest suspects earlier. Despite this, the legal limit imposed on the pre-charge detention of terror suspects in these countries is much shorter than in the UK.

The important difference seems to be that Knox and Sollecito are going to end up in court. (Can anyone see the police dropping the case now?) Suspects held under the proposed 42-day legislation would have no such rights. Big difference, surely?

[1] Owned by the Hearst Corporation. We cover the conspiracy theories here, you know.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This P-I story says Knox and Sollecito haven't been charged.

Honestly, Aaronovitch seems to me to have a point when he attacks the distinction between pre-charge detention and detention pending trial (but still pre-charge).

But this:

Liberty argued, last month, that “some individuals seeking to radicalise Muslim youths also might use the disparity [in detention limits] to undermine the UK's claim to civility and moral authority”.... This warning can be - and is - a self-fulfilling prophecy. In overstating the differences between Britain and other countries, Liberty provides the ammunition for the very forces it describes.

is very low.

12/28/2007 10:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The important difference seems to be that Knox and Sollecito are going to end up in court.

Yes. Two words: inquisitorial system. Knox and Sollecito are being detained by the people whose job it is to build the eventual case against them, not by the police. A slightly closer parallel would be the Crown Prosecution Service having powers to detain suspects (under certain conditions, subject to judicial authorisation).

The depressing thing is that Aaro seems to have understood this point and gone to some lengths to obscure it. Exhibit A:

"In Italy you can be held for month after month without formal charge as long as you are understood to be “pre-trial”, during which time sufficient evidence may be found to convict you or, if not, you may be released."

Note: "to convict you", not "to put you on trial". Detention for long periods pending a trial which may not result in a conviction is pretty bad - and yes, obviously provisions like the Italian convalida di fermo can be abused. But detention for long periods pending charges which may or may not be laid is both worse in itself and more dangerous, inasmuch as it's likely to affect far more people.

12/29/2007 12:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the first sentence, "Cox" should be "Knox".

12/29/2007 10:21:00 PM  

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