UK Liberty

Commons gives up bid to keep expenses hidden

Posted in accountability, freedom of information, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on May 21, 2008

Decides to shred instead?

The BBC:

MPs have finally abandoned their legal fight to keep secret the details of their expenses.

The Commons Members Estimates Committee says it will not seek leave to appeal against a High Court ruling ordering a detailed breakdown of their claims.

The court ruled that the Information Tribunal acted within its powers when it demanded details of MPs’ second home allowances be provided.

The details of 14 MPs, including Gordon Brown, must be released by Friday.

Information on the remaining MPs, thought to number around one million individual items, will be published in the autumn, a spokeswoman for the committee said.  …

UK Confidential

Posted in database state, surveillance society by ukliberty on May 21, 2008

[hat-tip David Moss]

Demos on a new book:

The transformation of our social lives and the increase in surveillance and technological innovations have led us to believe that privacy is in the midst of a very public death. But privacy is not dying, nor can we let it do so.

Privacy protects a set of deeply significant values that no society can do without; it is about the lines, boundaries and relationships we draw between and among ourselves, communities and institutions. Privacy appears threatened because our perception of what it means has radically changed. This collection argues that we get the privacy culture we deserve. Our appetite for a connected society means we have yet to determine why we still care about privacy.

These essays explore the underlying challenges and realities of privacy in an open society, and argue for a new settlement between the individual and society; the public and the state; the consumer and business. To achieve this, we need collective participation in negotiating the terms and conditions of twenty-first century privacy.

Freedom of speech is alive and well I see

Posted in freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, law and order by ukliberty on May 21, 2008

The Telegraph:

A teenage boy is facing a possible criminal prosecution for holding a sign describing the Church of Scientology as a “cult”, police said on Tuesday.

The boy, who is described only as a minor, was taking part in a demonstration outside the church’s central London headquarters on May 10 when City of London Police officers ordered him to remove the placard.

It read: “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.”

When he refused,

Apparently quoting Judge Latey: “Scientology is both immoral and socially obnoxious…It is corrupt sinister and dangerous. It is corrupt because it is based on lies and deceit and has its real objective money and power for Mr. Hubbard… It is sinister because it indulges in infamous practices both to its adherents who do not toe the line unquestioningly and to those who criticize it or oppose it. It is dangerous because it is out to capture people and to indoctrinate and brainwash them so they become the unquestioning captives and tools of the cult, withdrawn from ordinary thought, living, and relationships with others.”

he was issued with a form of summons for an alleged breach of public order. Police plan to pass a file to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether charges can be brought. …

Chief Supt Rob Bastable said: “City of London Police upholds the right to demonstrate lawfully, but we have to balance that with the right of all sections of community not to be alarmed, harassed or distressed as a result of other people’s behaviour.”

  1. Did anyone make a complaint?
  2. Is their faith so fragile that they would be “alarmed, harassed or distressed”?
  3. Are some City of London police involved with Scientology?
  4. What training do the police receive, if any, in “balancing” the freedoms of speech, expression and assembly against “the right not to be alarmed, harassed, or distressed”?
  5. Will anyone refer the police/CPS to the reply given in Arkell vs. Pressdram?

The “alleged breach of public order”, by the way, refers to s5 of the Public Order Act 1986 (a pity it isn’t 1984, so much more poetic):

5. Harassment, alarm or distress.
— (1) A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

(3) It is a defence for the accused to prove—
(a) that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or
(b) that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(c) that his conduct was reasonable.

(6) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

Currently a level 3 fine is up to £1000.

Perhaps the protestors should wear clothing and brandish placards that read, “we are threated, abused and insulted by any writing, sign or other visible representation of Scientology or the City of London police and are likely to be harassed, alarmed or distressed by it.”

Then the law, Scientologists and City of London police can disappear up their own collective arse.

Again I feel the need to quote Natan Sharansky’s Town Square Test:

If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a “fear society” has finally won their freedom.