When David Davis resigned his seat he said he wanted to speak a national debate on 42 days and the surveillance society. Despite not having a serious opponent he has managed to get across quite a large part of the national media. If some new poll evidence is to believed, people are now starting to have decond thoughts over their previous support for 42 days, ID cards and the unresricted use of a DNA database.
A Joseph Rowntree/ ICM poll ftoday has found that that 61% of people oppose detaining terrorist suspects for longer than 28 days. Four weeks ago 69% were said to support the government view on 42 days. This adds weight to the view that the more people hear about 42 days, the less they like it.
The ICM poll shows that whilst 36% of those asked think people who may be guilty of a terrorist offence should be held in detention for up to six week, or 42 days, before they are charged or released, 32% say it should be up to four weeks, 13% up to two weeks, 10% up to one week and 6% up to four days.
On detention, significantly, when told that six weeks in custody is equivalent to the prison sentence which someone might serve if found guilty of an offence such as burglary or assault people change their minds. Of those who said terrorist suspects should be held for up to six weeks before being charged or released, more than a third (35%) changed their minds when told this and agreed it is not right to hold someone who may be innocent for so long.
Even more interestingly, in the same poll 74% of people do not support the permanent retention of DNA for innocent people and suspects who are acquitted. David Davis has made clear his view that it is ridiculous that the government has one million innocent people on its database, yet leaves off serious criminals. It seems the public agrees.
47% of people say that DNA profiles should not be kept at all by the police if someone is never charged with an offence or is acquitted, with a further 27% saying they should be kept for a limited time only.
93% believe DNA profiles should be kept permanently on a database if someone is convicted of a serious violent or sexual offence such as rape or murder. Only 33% of people believe these rules should also apply to those convicted of a lesser offence such as being drunk and disorderly. If a person is convicted of a ‘public order offence’, two-thirds of people say that their DNA records should either be kept for a limited time only (47%), or not at all (19%).
All this comes on the day after the former Head of MI5, Lady Manningham Buller said in the House of Lords that the didn't support 42 days. Neither does her predecessor Stella Rimington. Neither does the former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. Neither does the former Justice Secretary Lord Falconer. Neither do various former Metropolitan Police Commissioners. Neither does the Director of Public Prosecutions. Need I go on?
The 42 day proposal will not get through the House of Lords and the government will be in even more of a mess than it is at the moment. I suspect that whatever national debate David Davis has sparked in the last three weeks, will be nothing compared to what is about to come.