Wed Jan 24, 5:40 AM ET
The nation's top prosecutor has set himself at odds with Prime Minister Tony Blair's government, saying the "war on terror" does not exist and urging restraint on laws threatening human rights.
The director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, warned Wednesday of a "fear-driven and inappropriate response" to the new threat that could lead to the abandonment of respect for fair trials and due legal process.
In a speech to the Criminal Bar Association, reported by the Guardian newspaper, Macdonald rejected the assertion that a "war on terror" was being played out in Britain.
"On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs', said Macdonald, who heads the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
"The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by the infringement."
One of the primary aims of groups and invididuals who committed atrocities such as the July 2005 suicide bombings in London was to encourage a response that ran counter to British values, he added.
Since the bombings -- and even after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States -- there have been criticisms that anti-terrorism legislation unfairly targets British Muslims.
Blair has tried -- and failed -- to increase the maximum period of detention without charge for security suspects to 90 days, while detention without trial -- the government's response to September 11 -- was ruled unlawful.
The courts have also criticised an alternative system of "control orders" -- a loose form of house arrest for security suspects -- as incompatible with human rights laws.
Macdonald said a "culture of legislative restraint in the area of terrorist crime is central to the existence of an efficient and human rights compatible process".
Without such restraint, there would be a greater number of less safe convictions, he added.
The criminal justice system's response to terrorism must be "proportionate and grounded in due process and the rule of law", he told his audience.
"We must protect ourselves from these atrocious crimes without abandoning our traditions of freedom."