UK Liberty

Consultation on the Delivery of the National Identity Scheme

Posted in ID Cards by ukliberty on April 28, 2008

[hat-tip: an anonymous NO2ID forum contributor]

The Home Office:

The purpose of this consultation is to help the Government to proceed with the implementation of National Identity Scheme, including the introduction of identity cards linked to a National Identity Register.

There are a number of specific consultation points that we have highlighted in the Delivery Plan, published on 6 March 2008.

Comments need not be limited just to these points and we invite any wider comments on our proposals for the implementation of the National Identity Scheme, you may use the final comment box of the questionnaire for your other points.

We will take full account of all comments received on these proposals. The consultation period ends 30 June 2008. Once we have taken stock of the comments received following this consultation, a summary of the responses received will be published. This will be within three months of the closing date for this consultation and will be made available on the Identity and Passport Service website www.ips.gov.uk The outcome of the consultation will help inform secondary legislation for the National Identity Scheme.

As specified above, all comments received may be published unless the person or organisation making them asks specifically that they should not be published.

Documents to download:

Download the online Consultation document (.rtf, 145 kb) this will allow you to complete the consultation online and email it to us.

#Download the Consultation document as a pdf, (119 kb) this will allow you to print and post the Consultation document.

#Download the National Identity Scheme Delivery Plan 2008 (pdf, 328 kb) this will allow you to view or print the National Identity Scheme 2008.

Update

My response.

Terror laws killing off British justice

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on April 28, 2008

Simon Jenkins in the Times:

Slowly, oh so slowly, Britain’s judges are rescuing Britain’s values from the depths to which Tony Blair and his home secretaries plunged them in the knee-jerk response to terrorism. The acts passed by Jack Straw, David Blunkett and Charles Clarke from 2000 onwards did not create a British Guantanamo Bay, but they did signal a shocking collapse in British justice. The present home secretary, Jacqui Smith, wants to further that collapse.

Last week the Court of Appeal handed down two trenchant verdicts in an attempt to inject common sense into nonsensical terror laws.

Every prediction that Britain’s burgeoning terrorism laws would pollute justice is vindicated by these cases. The concept of preemptive imprisonment, like that of preemptive war, should have no place in an open society.

The authorities now have extraordinary powers to arrest and convict Britons on evidence that may be tainted by American interrogation techniques or by the sheer ignorance of the police and security services.

It is to this secret establishment that Smith wants to give discretionary power to incarcerate suspects without charge for an undecided number of months. It is this establishment that is still determined not to reveal the extent of its wiretap activities in court. It is this that has equipped Britain with the most extensive network of surveillance in the free world. It is this that intends to computerise the personal, occupational, medical and family records of the entire nation, on bases that everyone knows will be insecure.

The customary response is that this drift towards authoritarianism, coupled with an extension of state discretion, is necessary in the so-called “post 9/11 world”. I do not buy this. The threat from fascism and communism in the 20th century was real. It was war, hot and cold. These ideologies could have defeated Britain militarily and the threat justified nuclear defence and some curb on civil liberty.

No serious person can imagine a Britain conquered and ruled by fundamentalist Islam. It is pure fiction. Any fanatic can set off bombs, as once could the Irish. The cult of the suicide bomber enhances the menace of explosive devices and that requires more assiduous policing. But such few bombs as get through are the price we pay for a free society. Democracy is never a free lunch.

The claim of ministers that militant Islamism constitutes “a threat to British values”, let alone to western civilisation, is defeatist nonsense. The threat to British values at present comes not from militant Islam but from a hysterical public reaction to it. Elevating a criminal act into a military and political threat is stupid because counter-productive.

Answering “extremist intoxication” with extremist repression pours petrol on the flames. The rash of antiterror legislation over the past seven years has been a panic measure that has led to injustice and fury on the part of far too many of its victims and their communities. It has been bad law.

I have no problem in getting tough with terrorist conspirators or blatant trouble-makers, as in refusing entry to undesirable foreign mullahs. I have no problem in kicking out those who abuse Britain’s ever-generous hospitality. Nor am I too worried about their fate in being returned to their country of origin.

But none of this justifies collapsing the values of justice and fairness on which British law has long been based. The paradox, espoused by the present government and mostly unchallenged by the opposition, that defending values requires infringing them, is unjustified [“We had to burn the village to save it”]. That habeas corpus must be restricted, that mens rea must be suspended, that reading and talking and thinking can be crimes, all are ideas so abhorrent to British people that one might imagine them the product of an Al-Qaeda plot inside the Home Office.

This week the only conclusion I can reach is one I would never have predicted. Thank goodness for judges with the guts to save British values from the present crop of British politicians.

And great comment from a reader:

The big lie from Blair was that terrorism would not be allowed to change the British way of life.

The judges’ job to hold Ministers to account

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on April 28, 2008

The Times:

Yesterday’s court rulings highlight the delicate relationship between the executive and the judiciary — one in which judges increasingly hold ministers to account, and find them wanting. The two cases are not isolated. In recent weeks, ministers have suffered a series of judicial hammer blows — from deporting terrorist suspects to powers to block the release of offenders on parole. So are our judges getting restive?

Moron asset freezing

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on April 25, 2008

The Times:

Anti-terrorism legislation was condemned as poorly thought-out by a senior High Court judge yesterday as he declared that the Treasury’s powers to freeze suspects’ bank accounts were unlawful.

Mr Justice Collins said that terrorist financial orders — introduced by Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor — were absurd, unfair and a breach of fundamental rights.

The judge, who has lengthy experience of dealing with terrorism cases, said: “It was, frankly, another example of an immediate reaction without it being thought through properly — which is rather the pattern with the anti-terrorism measures.”

Indeed.

… There are now 59 people living in Britain on the Treasury sanctions list, including the radical clerics Abu Hamza al-Masri and Abu Qatada, who are both in jail. The Bank of England has frozen 274 accounts, containing £656,000.

Abu Qatada had £180,000 cash in his home when it was raided in 2001 and, despite the sanctions, Abu Hamza made £120,000 on a property transaction while in prison.

Ruling on an appeal brought by five terrorist suspects — referred to in court as A, K, M, Q and G — the judge said that the sanctions had had “the most drastic effect” on them and their families.

People on the terrorist list have to apply to the Treasury for a licence to spend money on groceries and anyone who provides them with “an economic resource” is liable to a criminal conviction and a jail sentence.

The judge said the situation was “an absurdity” and recommended that two measures — the Terrorism Order and the al-Qaeda and Taleban Order — should be quashed. They will, however, remain in place pending an appeal that the ministers said the Government would pursue urgently.

The measures were adopted to give effect in British law to two United Nations Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on people alleged to be funding terrorism.

The judge was critical that they were introduced as Orders in Council rather than through an Act of Parliament and were therefore not subject to debate by MPs and peers. He also criticised the absence of a procedure for suspects who wanted to challenge their listing as terrorists.

The Government, he added, should consider introducing measures in the Counter-terrorism Bill to provide for a tribunal at which people on the Treasury’s list could challenge the financial sanctions. The judge told government lawyers: “You are going to have to legislate at some stage, otherwise the State will not be able to put before the court the incriminating or allegedly incriminating material.”

He said he had “real concerns” that the orders had introduced a criminal offence, of assisting a listed person, without consulting Parliament.

David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that the High Court had left Mr Brown’s asset-freezing regime “in tatters”. He added: “When you make laws in a hurry that are unfocused and arbitrary, the result is neither firm nor fair — just fragile.”

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said that she was “very disappointed” with the ruling.

Jane Kennedy, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “The Government continues to be fully committed to defending and maintaining our asset-freezing regime which makes an important contribution to our national security by helping to prevent funds being used for terrorist purposes and is central to our obligations under successive UN Security Council Resolutions to combat global terrorism.”

But Jules Carey, solicitor for G, said that the importance of the judgment could not be overstated. He said: “It is the sovereignty of Parliament that is at stake here, the foundation block of the British constitution. If Government can, without consulting Parliament, give itself powers to create criminal offences and take away fundamental rights then we are watching the sun set on democracy.”

The strange thing here is that Parliament wouldn’t have blocked a Bill along those lines… it’s passed worse!

Update

The judgement is now on Bailii.

Some quotes:

It is submitted that the orders are unlawful in establishing criminal offences which go far beyond what is reasonably required and offend against the principle of legal certainty. The very wide definition of economic resources makes it impossible for members of the family of the designated person in particular to know whether they are committing an offence or a licence is needed. … The solicitor for the applicants A, K and M was concerned to ascertain on their families’ behalf what could and could not be provided without the need for a licence and I gather that those in the Treasury who have to deal with those matters have had to consider whether licences should be granted on more than 50 occasions.

A specific query arose, and it is a good illustration of the absurdity which can result, in relation to the loan of a car to an applicant to enable him to go to the supermarket to get the family’s groceries. After some delay, the Treasury (in my view wrongly) decided that a licence was needed. The car was an economic resource and could be used to obtain or deliver goods or services. This was only resolved by the Treasury after seeking ministerial consideration.

Similar concerns have been raised in relation to an Oyster card to enable the applicant to travel and any borrowing of items for any purpose. Since the possible penalty on conviction is severe, the concerns are understandable and the effect on the applicant and his family, whose human rights are also in issue, is serious.

A further attack is made in that no procedure is set out to deal with the inevitable reliance on closed material. It is said by Mr Crow that there is no reason why the Court should not sanction the use of special advocates: it has that power in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction: see R(Roberts) v Parole Board [2005] 2 A.C. 738. It is to be noted that as long ago as October 2006, the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury said, in connection with the TO on the day it was made:-

“The Treasury has agreed … to use closed source evidence in asset freezing cases where there are strong operational reasons to impose a freeze, but insufficient open source evidence available. The use of closed source material will be subject to proper judicial safeguards. The Government intend to put in place a special advocates procedure to ensure that appeals and reviews in these cases can be heard on a fair and consistent basis.”

That was 18 months ago. There is no such procedure in force. It is not for the court to devise a procedure particularly as it cannot deal with the constraints imposed by RIPA and there are resource considerations in the use of special advocates. Roberts case related to cases in which use of such material would be exceptional; cases under the Orders will regularly involve such material.

Finally, I come to the burden and standard of proof. I regard this as an unnecessary and unhelpful approach. In judicial reviews of the AQO and applications under Article 5(4) of the TO, the approach should be the same. It should follow that laid down by the Court of Appeal in Secretary of State for the Home Department v MB [2007] QB 415 at paragraph 67. This requires the court to consider all the evidence put before it and decide whether, taken as a whole, it shows that the grounds for making the order are established.

The result of this judgment will, I think, be that both the Orders must be quashed. This is not to say that freezing orders cannot be made to comply with the UN resolutions. But in my view it is essential that Parliament considers the way in which what is required should be achieved and it is not proper to do it by relying on s.1 of the 1946 Act. However, I will hear counsel on the appropriate order that I should make.

Update 2

Some excellent detail on SpyBlog.

Extraordinary

Posted in detention without charge by ukliberty on April 25, 2008

Jackie Ashley in the Guardian:

after the 10p vote will be plenty more possible crises, not least the vote over the 42-day detention proposal. On both, I am 100% against the official government view and, with every instinct, on the side of the Labour rebels. But disaster is looming and the real parliamentarians have carefully to weigh in the balance what they now do, and ask how much likelier it will make a Tory landslide a year hence.

There you have it – even though you know it’s wrong, you must vote for it regardless.