The Invention of Executive Detention

A. W. Brian Simpson

in In the Highest Degree Odious

Published in print November 1994 | ISBN: 9780198259497
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681974 | DOI:
The Invention of Executive Detention

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This book is a history of the use of executive detention in Britain during World War II under Regulation 18B of the Defence (General) Regulations; this enabled the government to imprison citizens thought to be dangerous to national security without charge, trial, or term set, under what Herbert Morrison, who administered the system during most of the war, described as ‘a terrible power’. Just under 2,000 individuals were so imprisoned in as gross an invasion of British civil liberty as could be conceived, only justifiable, if at all, by the grim necessity of the time. Imprisonment is of course commonplace, and is indeed the typical punishment imposed for serious breaches of the criminal law. But executive detention is designed to be employed in advance; hence detainees languish in prison not for what they have done, but for what they might do in the future if they remained at liberty. Also, detention is typically imposed as a result of an administrative decision, taken in private, by state officials, without any form of prior trial.

Keywords: Britain; World War II; executive detention; imprisonment; punishment; national security; civil liberty; Regulation 18B; Herbert Morrison; criminal law

Chapter.  6928 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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