UK Liberty

NUJ: Journalism is facing grave threats in civil liberties clampdown

National Union of Journalists:

VIDEO: The NUJ has released a short film highlighting some of the problems faced by journalists covering public demonstrations.

The video was released the day after the TUC in Brighton condemned the erosion of civil liberties and media freedoms in Britain. TUC unions unanimously backed a motion, proposed by the National Union of Journalists, which called for a rethink of government policies that put journalists at risk of imprisonment just for doing their job.

Speaking after the TUC vote, NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Journalism is facing grave threats in an age of intolerance. Whilst on the streets dissent is being criminalized, independent journalism is being increasingly caught in the civil liberties clampdown.”

The nine-minute video, called Press Freedom: Collateral Damage, includes examples of the police obstructing journalists in their work. …

Of course, ordinary members of the public are photographed and ‘moved along’ too. See Fitwatch for more information including the costs of this service to the public.

SpyBlog:

If professional photographers, who regularly document political demonstrations and protests feel intimidated, then what about the “chilling effect” on the freedom of members of the public who might try to snap a picture on their mobile phone or digital camera , now that there are Government and Police propaganda campaigns which demonise street photographers as if they were all terrorist suspects ? …

Interesting case at High Court related to police shooting

Posted in accountability, law and order by ukliberty on September 10, 2008

The Times:

A barrister shot dead during an armed siege at his £2 million Chelsea flat was not pointing a weapon at anyone when he was killed by police marksmen, the High Court was told today.

Mark Saunders, 32, a successful divorce lawyer, died when seven officers fired 11 rounds at him, ending the five-and-a-half hour stand-off at Markham Square close to the fashionable King’s Road, West London.

His family claim that although Mr Saunders had opened fire using a legally-held shotgun during the siege he had not fired for 20 minutes before he was killed on the evening of May 6.

“It appears that the final fatal shots were fired over 20 minutes after Mr Saunders last fired a shot and at a time when neighbours had all been evacuated or otherwise safely ‘contained’,” Tim Owen, QC, representing Mr Saunders’s sister Charlotte, told the court.

“As a consequence, it is difficult to see who was being put at risk or who the police may have believed was being put at risk by Mr Saunders’ actions at the time when he was shot.”

Perhaps themselves, but I take the point – the police officer(s) who fired must have had an honest belief that lethal force was reasonable otherwise his use of force was illegal.

Mr Owen said Miss Saunders claims about the shooting were based on viewing film recorded from a police helicopter flying over the scene.

The disclosures about the shooting came as Miss Saunders launched a legal challenge to the way in which her brother’s death was being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

This is another key bit for me:

She is questioning the legality of the practice followed by firearms officers in conferring before producing their accounts of a shooting incident.

Mr Owen said: “There can be no doubt that the present practice means that there is a substantial risk of collusion and of contamination.”

He said that officers had delayed in producing their statements to the IPCC about the shooting and that the Metropolitan Police had since admitted they had conferred over their accounts.

Mr Owen argued that the practice of officers comparing notes was incompatible with human rights law which required that inquiries into such incidents should be independent.

Indeed the IPCC has recommended at least three times, including after its inquiry into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, that the practice be changed.

The IPCC took the view that the practice was “undesirable” but could not challenge it unless the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) directed a change.

Mr Owen said: “We don’t accept that argument. The IPCC is invested with sufficient powers to make a direction to the police authority to reverse the current practice to achieve a different approach which is capable of being compatible [with human rights law].”

Miss Saunders was also arguing that the failure of the IPCC to disclose to her the statements of the principal officers – operational commanders, negotiators and firearms officers – was unlawful.

CPS seeks retrial of alleged aircraft bomb plotters

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on September 10, 2008

The Times:

The decision to seek a retrial was made by Sir Ken Macdonald, QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, following discussions with senior counsel and Scotland Yard’s Counter-terrorism Command.

Sir Ken said he had “carefully considered” the case and concluded “that the prosecution should apply to retry each of these defendants on every count that the recently discharged jury failed to agree upon”.

He added: “This will include a count that each defendant conspired to detonate improvised explosive devices on transatlantic passenger aircraft. We shall be returning to court to make this application in due course.”

Telford Town Park

Posted in state-citizen relationship by ukliberty on September 10, 2008

[hat-tip LibDemVoice]

The Shropshire Star:

Council staff on the lookout for paedophiles have been ordered to stop and quiz any adults found walking in Telford Town Park without a child, it was revealed today.

Anyone who wants to go to the park but is not accompanied by at least one youngster will have to explain why they are there.

Clearly adults accompanied by youngsters cannot be paedophiles… er…

Telford campaigners battling to retain full public access to the park today branded the policy “draconian” and “authoritarian madness” but the council defended the policy, claiming it had a responsibility to “protect the vulnerable”.

Of course! Won’t somebody think of the children?

The policy came to light after two environmental campaigners dressed as penguins were thrown out of the park last month when caught handing out leaflets on climate change.

Telford & Wrekin Council said Rachel Whittaker and Neil Donaldson of the Wrekin Stop War pressure group were ejected because they had not undergone Criminal Records Bureau checks or risk assessments before entering the park.

Why on earth should one need a CRB check and risk assessment in order to hand out leaflets in a park?

David Ottley, Telford & Wrekin’s sports and recreation manager, said in a letter seen by the Shropshire Star:

“Our Town Park staff approach adults that are not associated with any children in the Town Park and request the reason for them being there.

Obviously paedophiles, being honest and otherwise law-abiding, will admit to being in a park in order to prey on children.

“In particular, this applies to those areas where children or more vulnerable groups gather, such as play facilities and the entrances to play areas. This is a child safety precautionary measure which members of staff will continue to undertake as and when necessary.”

Whether or not it’s a waste of time!

Where are we going with this, and where do we want to end up?

The surveillance society is for your own good

Posted in database state, law and order, politicians on liberty, surveillance society by ukliberty on September 10, 2008

I wrote in a previous post,

We – and our beloved leaders and the media – need to get a grip. Our leaders must stop politicising terror (”the Opposition will get you killed”) and the media should stop buying into the Climate of Fear.

Particularly because these headline grabbing Hollywood terror plots are used to infringe on our liberties.

Peter Clarke wrote in a misleading article for the Times:

So was there or was there not a plot to bring down airliners? I know what I think. The jury agreed that some of those on trial wanted to commit murder, but couldn’t agree, despite strong evidence, that the targets were airliners.

Note that neither he nor the Times have said what this ‘strong evidence’ is.  It seems to amount to a list of flight times and notes about airport security.  If that’s all there is, no wonder it failed to convince the jury beyond reasonable doubt that the targets were aircraft rather than bombs in the airport.

(To be honest, other than planes being a symbol and their vulnerability, I can’t see the difference between intending to blow up hundreds of people at an airport and hundreds of people on a ‘plane.)

…We have what is probably the most effective counter-terrorist machinery in the world. The organisations involved have been at full stretch for years, and despite the gainsayers, the legal and ethical standards of the counter-terrorist effort are incredibly high – the British public demands and deserves no less.

They also deserve a better quality debate about the relationship between individual liberties and collective security.

Irony.

Take this case. To save the lives of the innocent and convict the would-be killers we used all the tools in the security armoury. Deeply intrusive surveillance, informants, CCTV, DNA, telephone call data and so on. This was not about collecting information for its own sake – it was to secure evidence to put before a court.

That’s not the same thing as a surveillance society.  A surveillance society relates to when a significant proportion of the population is under surveillance as a matter of course, not when a specific group of suspects is being watched as part of a criminal investigation.

Perhaps he is trying to get us to make a leap of logic from the former to the latter – to the world of automated profiling and watchlists and database mining.

Some critics fail to understand that sophisticated, modern evidence gathering has allowed the most complex terrorist conspiracies to be tried in our criminal courts in front of a jury. No need for military commissions

A dig at Guantanamo Bay?

or the juryless Diplock courts of Northern Ireland.

In fact some critics do understand that but recognise that measures must be proportionate.

The series of terrorist convictions in recent years has been a victory for the rule of law and sends out a strong, positive signal to all communities. But it couldn’t have happened if things that used to be buried deep in the world of intelligence were not now brought blinking into the light of the courtroom.

And what if we had failed? What if the prosecution case was right, and half a dozen American airliners were to be brought down by British terrorists, operating from Britain and in effect using the UK as a launch pad for an attack on the United States? What would have happened to the UK and indeed the global economy? What would the impact have been on UK/US relations?

What if what if what if?

What if, as appears to be the case, we were not in any imminent danger of being blown up on holiday, yet we were all made to feel frightened of brown people carrying bottles of orange drinks on to aeroplanes?

What about the pressure it would have placed on Muslims in the UK? A very senior politician, at the time of the arrests, told me he thought it could have led to a breakdown in the community cohesion that had survived the attacks in 2005.

So let’s remember the benefits of the “surveillance society”. We should draw satisfaction that due to terrorist convictions in our courts, thousands of people are alive today because those who wanted to kill them could be bugged and burgled

It’s not burglary if it’s lawful entry – I hope Peter Clarke isn’t alleging his team committed a crime.

- within the Rule of Law and for the common good.

Peter Clarke should stop claiming the surveillance society is equivalent to surveillance as part of a targeted investigation.

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