UK Liberty

The Shape of Things to Come

Posted in database state, state-citizen relationship, surveillance society by ukliberty on September 11, 2008

Statewatch:

The EU is currently developing a new five year strategy for justice and home affairs and security policy for 2009-2014. The proposals set out by the shadowy “Future Group” set up by the Council of the European Union include a range of highly controversial measures including new technologies of surveillance, enhanced cooperation with the United States and harnessing the “digital tsunami”.

In the words of the EU Council presidency: “Every object the individual uses, every transaction they make and almost everywhere they go will create a detailed digital record. This will generate a wealth of information for public security organisations, and create huge opportunities for more effective and productive public security efforts.”

Seven years on from 11 September 2001 and the launch of the “war on terorism” this major new report The Shape of Things to come (60 pages) examines the proposals of the Future Group and their effect on civil liberties. It shows how European governments and EU policy-makers are pursuing unfettered powers to access and gather masses of personal data on the everyday life of everyone – on the grounds that we can all be safe and secure from perceived “threats”.

The Statewatch report calls for a “meaningful and wide-ranging debate” before it is “too late” for privacy and civil liberties. Press release and Eight page Conclusions and The Shape of Things to Come: Full report (pdf)

Our obsession with crime is crushing our freedoms

Posted in database state, law and order, state-citizen relationship, surveillance society by ukliberty on September 11, 2008

[hat-tip Gizmonaut]

Henry Porter in the Observer:

The story of Milly, an eight-year-old cat who disappeared out of window in Whitstable two weeks ago, has much to tell us about the petty-minded forces that have come to replace proper policing in this country. Her owners, Stephen and Heather Cope and their son Daniel, 13, searched high and low for Milly, then, failing to find her, did what any normal person would do: put up posters to see if anyone had seen her. The next thing they heard was from one of the local council community wardens, who rang the telephone number on the poster and threatened them with a £80 on-the-spot fine for antisocial behaviour.

Seldom can there have been a more officious, twerpish enforcement of the law, but this kind of action is now one of the established parts of this dreadful government’s legacy. As the police retreat from the streets, we are prey to every type of snoop, informant, busybody and vindictive martinet, all of them licensed by the government’s accreditation scheme so that they may demand our names and addresses, photograph us, check car tax discs and seize alcohol, issue fines for truancy, rowdiness, graffiti and dog fouling. …

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

Still missing the point

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on September 11, 2008

Crispin Black in the Guardian on why we should drop having trials and just let the authorities put people in prison:

With the failure to reach verdicts in two high-profile terror trials

This is misleading, because verdicts were reached in the liquid bomb case – three guilty of conspiracy to murder, one found not guilty.  Verdicts were not reached on the charges relating to plotting to blow up aircraft.

In the second case, linked to the 7 July London bombings, I’m not surprised the jury failed to reach a verdict, going by the evidence in the media  – the suspects visited London seven months beforehand, they used public transport, they visited some tourist attractions, they made telephone calls between each other and the bombers.

(That may be another case where intercept evidence would have been useful.)

in the last two months, jury trial in such cases is being questioned.

Of course it is, because the authorities aren’t getting the results they want, and instead of looking at that great big tree in their own eyes, they are looking at the speck of dust in the jurors’.

This morning, certain senior officials and government ministers probably feel like the admiral at the battle of Jutland who said “there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”. We have become used to the fact that on occasion obscure points of human rights law can scupper what look like common sense procedures – deporting [foreign] Islamist extremists for instance.

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Prohibition of Torture) is hardly an obscure point of law.

But juries are a different matter – they are held to embody the distilled fairness and impartial judgment of all of us. If they are having difficulty reaching verdicts maybe there is something amiss.

And Crispin thinks, “It must be the jury that is amiss!” – let’s not consider that the issue is the prosecution failed to convince the jury beyond reasonable doubt that the suspects intended to bomb aircraft.  The prosecution’s case is where to start looking for answers if we think there is a problem.

Juries are central to English justice. Here it’s 12 good men/women and true who ultimately decide criminal trials – not judges or panels of judges like the dodgy Europeans. We are proud of this. During the troubles in Northern Ireland we were forced to suspend jury trial in the province after a programme of intimidation and murder by terrorists. We had little choice, but the reputation of justice suffered nonetheless and the IRA made great hay in terms of propaganda from the so-called Diplock courts where a judge sat alone (abolished in 2007).

If on occasion the prosecution case is not as strong as initially thought and the jury won’t buy it – all well and good. That is how the system should work. Juries are not meant to be comprised of 12 Jeremy Clarkson think-alikes. The authorities will have to take it on the chin.

But?

But

There you go!

juries repeatedly

Repeatedly?

Crispin has given us two examples of failures to reach verdicts, one of which wasn’t in fact a good example.

not being convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” by what the prosecution (and the intelligence community and a large chunk of the general public) consider to be strong cases is a different matter altogether.

So again, it must be the juries’ fault.

Again, let’s not consider that the prosecution failed to persuade the jury beyond reasonable doubt.  And of course the authorities will be convinced by their own case – that is why the CPS press particular charges, because they think there is a reasonable chance they will succeed.

I’m not entirely sure why Crispin Black thinks “a large chunk of the general public” is competent to deliver a verdict – they will be aware of only a fraction (if any) of the evidence heard by the jury.

When the verdicts came in yesterday in the airline plot trial (which the jury, despite convicting three men for conspiracy to murder were not convinced was about airliners at all)

Quite, it is the politicians and the national press that characterised it as the airline plot – Crispin, just because someone says something, it does not mean that is a fact.

the judge complimented the jury on their efforts in effusive not just polite terms. So he was satisfied that they had done their duty. I am sure he was right.

But nevertheless Crispin is concerned.

But have the authorities given any thought to the sheer complexity and grinding detail that some present-day juries have to absorb?

Yes.

Is there a way of making some of these cases less complicated and time-consuming without loading the dice against the defendants?

Crispin is trying to frame the discussion with the unsubstantiated premise that the cases are complicated (of course they are time-consuming).  Let him establish that and then we can work out if they are too complicated for lesser people to understand.

Finally I wonder if modern juries are not susceptible to a form of silent, subconscious intimidation. After all, when they leave the secure environment of Woolwich crown court some of them might not feel that they are resuming their lives in a well-ordered society. And as we have discovered in recent months, they can’t necessarily be confident that their identities and addresses will remain secret for long.

Mere speculation, with nothing to substantiate it.

Shoddy, shoddy work.

Get a grip and some perspective.

Trial by politician

Posted in law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on September 11, 2008

[hat-tip Tim Worstall]

Alice Miles in the Times:

They have been convicted by everybody except a jury. The men on trial for their involvement in an airline bomb plot, four of whom the jury felt unable to convict of murder conspiracy this week, had been condemned as soon as they were arrested two summers ago.

Then, the Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Paul Stephenson told us publicly that there had been a plot to bomb airliners that “was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale”. A “security source” told the Daily Mirror: “Make no mistake – if this plot had succeeded it would have been bigger than 9/11 in terms of body count. This is very, very significant.”

The jury rightly found three men guilty of conspiracy to murder, which carries a life sentence, but that isn’t enough for the authorities – the men must be convicted of a plot actually to blow aircraft out of the sky, because that is what police and politicians told everyone was being planned, and every air passenger’s life was greatly disrupted as a result. …

The Daily Mail asked yesterday: “Are our standards of proof too high to protect the public from terrorists? There is something wrong with a society that cannot successfully prosecute and punish those it accuses of seeking to destroy it.”

Missing the fact that three of them were convicted!

We can successfully prosecute and punish – we just have to have sufficient evidence to persuade a jury of 12 ordinary men and women.

It’s called the law. Or perhaps that’s another freedom requiring modification in the face of those who oppose our fundamental values. What a terrible legacy of the events of seven years ago today that would be.

Legal aid reforms harming trials

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on September 11, 2008

Further to previous articles, the Times reports that

Dozens of major trials, including rape and murder cases, are under threat because barristers are refusing to work for a minimum £91 an hour.

At least five big criminal prosecutions, including the Rhys Jones murder trial in Liverpool, have been hit by the boycott, The Times has learnt. Dozens more risk disruption and delays if the dispute over legal aid rates is not resolved swiftly.

Peter Lodder, QC, the new chairman of the 4,000-strong Criminal Bar Association, told The Times that judges could have to release defendants if the dispute is not settled soon.

Trials involving defendants held in custody can only be delayed up to 112 days between their committal and trial. Courts have the option of releasing defendants on bail but in serious cases there is a greater risk that they would abscond, he said. …

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