UK Liberty

Interesting development on 42 day detention without charge

Posted in detention without charge, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on March 31, 2008

The BBC:

Plans to extend the limit on detaining terror suspects without charge to 42 days could face an Equality and Human Rights Commission court challenge.

They say plans to increase the limit from 28 days could contravene the law.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith says it is the commission’s job “to challenge and scrutinise”, but said Parliament should have its say before any court case.

She added that her plan was intended to safeguard the “most fundamental right” – not to be a victim of terrorism.

The Home Office said it had consulted to win as much consensus as possible.

Ministers have come up against strong opposition from Tories, Lib Dems and some Labour MPs over terror detentions.

The commission says the proposed law could contravene race equality legislation, as it is being established to deal with a particular religious and racial minority.

It told MPs in a briefing note: “If adopted, we may seek to use our legal powers to challenge the lawfulness of the provisions and establish clear legal principles on the use of pre-trial detention.”

The watchdog says the provisions set out by the Home Office are unlikely to meet threshold tests of public interest, justification or fairness.

Here we go again!

Posted in Uncategorized by ukliberty on March 27, 2008

The Abolishing Parliament Act rears it’s ugly head again.

SpyBlog has the details.

What is the statutory basis for this?

Posted in database state, law and order, surveillance society by ukliberty on March 20, 2008

The Guardian:

The police are developing the first national database of mugshots so that they can use face recognition technology to match CCTV images with details of offenders, MPs were told yesterday.

The system is being developed in a pilot scheme involving the Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Merseyside police which has generated a database of more than 750,000 facial images over the past 18 months. Peter Neyroud, the chief executive of the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA), told MPs yesterday that the development of a national facial images database is just one element of a technological revolution in neighbourhood beat policing.

Neyroud, former chief constable of Thames Valley, hopes that by the time of the 2012 London Olympics beat officers will be equipped with advanced “second-generation” hand-held computers which can take and transmit fingerprints, download mugshots and details from the police national computer, and access images from local CCTV cameras.

His hi-tech vision of the future of policing was given during the final evidence session of a year-long inquiry by the Commons home affairs select committee into the “surveillance society”.

The development of an electronic mugshot database is still at an early stage. In the pilot scheme areas the digital photographs are logged of everyone who has been arrested for a criminal offence, with the image linked to the criminal data held on the police national computer. While each force is able to search the electronic mugshots in its own area to match them with CCTV images, the technology does not yet exist to search on the scale needed for a national database.

The police are also developing “behavourial matching” software to pick out odd behaviour in a crowd using CCTV picures. “That might be particularly useful in counter-terrorism or tackling street crime,” he said. “The proliferation of CCTV cameras in the UK – with about one for every 14 people – means that we are now accustomed to our movements being monitored in this way and for most people this is not an issue.” …

I’m sure people would eventually get used to house arrest – it doesn’t make it right.

Nothing to hide

Posted in database state, privacy by ukliberty on March 19, 2008

Tony Collins at Computer Weekly:

Details have emerged of an incident last year in which the electronic medical records of former England football manager Sir Bobby Robson were viewed illicitly by NHS staff when he went into hospital.

He needed surgery in August 2006 for a brain tumour. He was treated by Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

An internal hospital memo, leaked to the Chronicle newspaper in Newcastle, said:

“Over the last few weeks the ongoing security reports relating to the access by staff to the PAS (patient administration system) system and to the Casenote Tracker module has identified inappropriate access which has resulted in a formal disciplinary investigation and written warnings being issued to a number of trust staff who have accessed patients’ information for no other reason than personal curiosity.”

Again, let’s not pretend that staff will never abuse their access.

National Security Strategy

Posted in detention without charge, law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on March 19, 2008

Oh joy:

New powers to tackle terrorism and secure successful prosecutions, including control orders, extended stop and search powers, new offences of acts preparatory, encouraging and glorifying terrorism, and training for terrorism; extended pre-charge detention; and extended proscription of terrorist organisations.

On the other hand:

we are also determined to maintain the balance of security and liberty, and above all to maintain normal life, whether at airports, on the train or underground networks, or in our communities.

There’s that word ‘balance’ again:

Our approach to national security is clearly grounded in a set of core values. They include human rights, the rule of law, legitimate and accountable government, justice, freedom, tolerance, and opportunity for all. Those values define who we are and what we do. They form the basis of our security, as well as our well-being and our prosperity. We will protect and respect them at home, and we will promote them consistently in our foreign policy. At home, our belief in liberty means that new laws to deal with the changing terrorist threat will be balanced with the protection of civil liberties and strong parliamentary and judicial oversight.

And what are we supposed to do about threat levels?

Since August 2006 we have published the terrorist threat level, based on a new and more transparent assessment system. The threat has remained at the second-highest level, ‘severe’, except for two short periods during August 2006 and June and July 2007, when it was raised to the highest level, ‘critical’.

Update

I’m trying to understand that first quote:

New powers to tackle terrorism and secure successful prosecutions, including control orders, extended stop and search powers, new offences of acts preparatory, encouraging and glorifying terrorism, and training for terrorism; extended pre-charge detention; and extended proscription of terrorist organisations.

We already have control order legislation, in the form of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 – I can’t tell from the Strategy document what will be added to that.

We already have offences of acts preparatory to, and encouraging and glorifying terrorism, and training for terrorism, in the Terrorism Act 2006 – again I can’t tell what will be added.

Incidentally, the Terrorism Bill 2006 (as it was) resulted in the first defeat for Tony Blair’s Government on the floor of the Commons, and apparently “the worst such defeat for any government since 1978”, when the House divided on the matter of extending detention without charge (see Public Whip).

So, it was the Terrorism Act 2006 that extended the pre-charge detention to 28 days, after an apparent ‘Dutch Auction’ where the 90 day clause had to be defeated first, with the 28 day amendment sadly being passed (60 days was waiting in the wings), but many moons ago it was the Terrorism Act 2000 that increased the period one could be held without charge to 7 – yes, seven days. We had tons more terrorism then, didn’t we?

I’ve discussed extending detention without charge (I dislike “pre-charge detention”, it looks a bit like UnSpeak) in other articles – outside the Government there is a consensus on it, and happily the consensus is that the Government is wrong.

I hope that there won’t be any extension of the period – but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was. I suspect Tony Blair’s Government wasn’t displeased with the result, as they looked weally weally tough on terror (and made all opponents look like they supported suicide bombings) and I suspect Gordon’s Government will be equally satisfied, say with 35 days, even though they claim to want 42 days.

And next session we’ll do it all over again!

Finally, regarding the proscription of terrorist organisations, again, what new powers are needed?

The Home Secretary may, under part II of the Terrorism Act 2000, as amended by part II of the Terrorism Act 2006, proscribe an organisation (eg) if it is “concerned in terrorism”.

Oh, did I mention that the strategy involves ID cards?

Update

See also SpyBlog: National Security Strategy – bias, omissions, and weasel words.