UK Liberty

List of official harrassment of photographers in UK

Posted in law and order, state-citizen relationship by ukliberty on March 16, 2009

Matt Wardman has compiled this rather interesting list:

Chris Dillow wrote about this in response to the latest mad Terrorism Law. A commentator called “Jon” made this wholly remarkable assertion:

The s. 58 offence has been on the books since 19 February 2001, and yet we have not been overwhelmed with tales of confiscated cameras and abused photographers.

So I thought I’d compile a list of just a few of the instances that I have come across. This page is a work in progress. I have initially taken a number of accounts from EPUK here, and added some others I know about. There must be hundreds or thousands if it is this easy to find them. At present there are about 15 in detail and links to another 20 accounts. I can think of another dozen to add without breaking sweat. …

Matt tells me he’s now up to 100 and counting…

The Human Rights Act is held up by Labour as a Good Thing

Posted in Bill of Rights (and Responsibilities), law and order by ukliberty on March 5, 2009

Melanie Phillips

Posted in law and order, state-citizen relationship by ukliberty on March 3, 2009

Melanie Phillips with some ill-informed, incoherent rubbish and derogatory comments about people who support civil liberties (“the chattering classes“).

Phillips holds the “civil liberties lobby” to blame for “Big Brother Britain”. She mentions the Convention of Modern Liberty bringing together people from across the political spectrum, but “Like all bandwagons, however, this one needs a beady eye cast over it, not least because of its occasional note of hysteria … Its claim that Britain is turning into a police state is clearly over the top”.

It is perhaps worth noting that there is not one mention of “police state” on the Convention’s site

There is the well-worn claim of “alarmism” over CCTV and DNA profiling, and how this pays “scant regard to their usefulness in catching criminals”.  This is odd because it seems to me the “civil liberties lobby” in fact appreciates that CCTV and DNA profiling helps catch criminals.  Indeed what I want is better CCTV and DNA profiling, and less inappropriate usage – and it isn’t made better by putting CCTV everywhere and putting everyone on the DNA database. There are principled and pragmatic reasons not to do so.

Phillips does recognise that we should “be concerned about some of the ways in which freedom is being compromised”, giving the examples of local councils and other public bodies using RIPA inappropriately, and she seems to object to CCTV watching us buy alcohol in pubs and supermarkets.

She also seems to object to the secret inquests provisions in the Coroners and Justice Bill, and the Intercept Modernisation Programme.

Phillips says, “These are very real concerns.”

But of course these aren’t, in her view, the fault of Parliamentarians passing objectionable legislation and the willingness of others to use and abuse the legislation.  No, it’s the “fault of the civil liberties lobby” for “this state of affairs”.

Under [human rights] law, judges have been handed the power to balance rights against each other. And time and again, they have come down in favour of the rights of terror suspects, illegal immigrants and common criminals against the rights of indigenous, law-abiding people. So it’s a bit rich for the liberty campaigners to claim that fear of terrorism has eroded human rights.

I’m not sure who has claimed that fear of terrorism has eroded human rights.   As far as I can see we have been blaming the Labour Government and its supporters for the last eleven years.  Now, they may have been motivated by fear of terrorism, or stoked the fear of terrorism in the public and thereby seen public support for erosions and infringements.  But ultimately it is Parliamentarians who voted aye who are to blame. 

This bit is weird:

But the human rights law these campaigners foisted upon us has taken a judicial axe to that principle by making judges the arbiters of our freedoms. 

In doing so, they deliberately transferred power from Parliament to the courts. And the inevitable consequence of that has been that MPs lost power to the judges. This weakening of Parliament has enabled the Labour Government to use Parliamentary procedure to short-circuit debate and force through legislation without proper scrutiny. 

Parliament isn’t at all weak.  The problem with Parliament at the moment is that there are too many Parliamentarians willing to vote aye to objectionable proposals, and a Government that keeps churning out legislation but not allowing (again via its supporters) enough time to properly scrutinise it. Indeed it is quite extraordinary that legislation can get to the statute book without those who voted on it being required to actually read it first.

This has nothing to do with civil liberties campaigners or judges at all.

A more robust Parliament would have prevented the Government passing those laws which threaten our fundamental freedoms. But over the past few years, Westminster has had the stuffing knocked out of it by a series of measures, including human rights law, whose purpose was to destroy this country’s constitutional settlement and powers of democratic self-government.

Civil liberties campaigners and judges have no power to prevent Parliamentarians from passing objectionable laws.

Prised open, kicking and screaming government

Posted in accountability, freedom of information, ID Cards by ukliberty on February 23, 2009

Sam Coates at the Times has a handy clipping from the most recent Private Eye, no. 1230, which provided that apposite title:

For those who wondered why last week the Cabinet Office apparently spontaneously published details of top civil servants’ freebies from big business in the greater interests of transparency — resulting in stories like this one — the new Private Eye has the answer. 

When the Cabinet Office last week published details of junkets enjoyed by our most senior civil servants, it claimed that “the decision to publish this list reflects the government’s continued commitment to openness and transparency”.

This was, er, bollocks. The junkets only emerged following a two-and-a-half campaign by Private Eye, hassling every Whitehall department for registers of hospitality for the three years up to 2006/07.Far from being open about these, the Cabinet Office orchestrated a cover-up under which all departments would say the older information would be too costly to obtain and that details for 2007 would be published in the “new year”. That was supposed to be the new year 2008, by the way. ….

In a similar vein,

The Office of Government Commerce has spent at least £140,000 on legal fees to keep secret two early Gateway reviews on the national ID cards scheme.

Costs will rise further if government lawyers appeal against a new order by the Information Tribunal to disclose the reviews.

On Thursday last week the Tribunal ordered – for a second time – that the reviews should be published. It gave the Office of Government Commerce 28 days to release them.

But the OGC is likely to appeal the Tribunal’s decision, which means it can continue to keep the reviews secret.

If the OGC were to lose any High Court appeal, it could take the case to the Law Lords. If it lost that too, ministers could veto to stop the reviews being published. 

Computer Weekly

(more on this case at SpyBlog and Tony Collins’ blog.)

English Parliament

Posted in accountability, state-citizen relationship by ukliberty on February 18, 2009

George Monbiot in the Guardian:

… Three nations in the United Kingdom, as a result of one of this government’s rare progressive policies, now possess a representative assembly. The fourth, and largest, does not. England, the great colonising nation, has become a colony. It is governed by a Scotsman who uses foreign mercenaries – Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs – to suppress parliamentary revolts over purely English affairs. There is still no democratic forum in which English interests can be discussed only by English representatives. The unfairness is staggering, the silence stranger still.

One of the peculiarities of UK politics is that issues supported by hardly anyone receive majority assent in parliament. In the current system, no popular support is required. University top-up fees, for example, were rejected by the Scottish and Welsh assemblies, but Scottish and Welsh MPs were frogmarched through the lobbies to impose them on England (the government won by five votes). Foundation hospitals were voted down in both Wales and Scotland, and foisted on the English by the representatives of those nations. Had Heathrow’s third runway been debated only by English MPs, the proposal would have been resoundingly defeated; it was approved by 19 votes, after 67 MPs from the other nations were induced to support the government. They can support such measures without any electoral risk, as their constituents are not directly affected. Devolution, which has had such beneficial consequences here in Wales and across the other borders, has left the English high and dry. …