Jack Straw quizzed on civil liberties at the LSE

Article published on March 9, 2009
Article published on March 9, 2009

Audience members were keen to probe the lord chancellor on controversial decisions on civil liberties at a public lecture last Tuesday at the London School of Economics. Lord chancellor and justice secretary Jack Straw spoke on his political role in relation to questions such as legal aid.

After the lecture the audience questions drifted on to civil liberties.

Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor/Secretary of State for Justice, speaking at the LSE (Photo: Naomi Christie)

On the subject of the detention of suspects without charge Straw said: "They may not have a 28 day detention system in France but you can keep some witnesses for up to a year. They would rather our system."

He put the falling crime rate down to better use of CCTV and spoke about the retention of DNA records for legal purposes.

"I would be perfectly happy to hand my DNA sample over. Some judges think that it's not a bad idea to have a universal database and that may be a better way of doing it. I agree."

Straw said: "I wholly refute the idea that this is a government that erodes liberty," highlighting the work the current labour government has done on race relations, human rights and freedom of information. "We have got no plans to repeal the freedom of information act," he added.

Straw also highlighted the international nature of his role. "I have to deal with two million Brits living in Europe and five million living abroad. A quarter of the people living in London were not born in the UK. We are a extraordinarily heterogeneous society."

A full transcript of Jack Straw's speech

jack_straw_justice_secWhat do you think?

How long should criminal suspects be allowed to be detained without charge? Should public institutions be obliged to release information to members of the public on request? What rights should the government have to withhold information requested? How should the threat of terrorism be dealt with?

(Above Photo - Jack Straw (on the right) dressed in his ceremonial robes. Photo by Steve Punter/Flickr)

By Naomi Christie