42 Days

By Linda Grant

It is not the forty-two days that concern me; I could survive forty days in Holloway, it’s the two words: without trial. For what this bill comes down to is two other words, not present, because they are banished: habeas corpus. You know you live in a country governed by the rule of law if you have habeas corpus; if you do not, you’re in a police state. The nature of democracy and of basic human liberty rests on the fact that you can’t be imprisoned unless you have been charged with a crime and convicted of it in the courts. However imperfect the judicial system is in Britain, the courts remain the places where justice is tested – if you have a case, make a charge.

When I think of 42 days detention without trial I think of a whole literature which has described the individual thrown into this limbo. Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. The person alone. The person without the resources of the law. A law is to be passed which dispenses with the law. It is all we have to defend ourselves with, against the enemies of democracy.