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January 31, 2005

Are We Still a Free People?

Let’s just run through a few things shall we? In recent years we have had the European Arrest Warrant, which allows someone to be picked up and extradited for something that is not a crime in the UK. Xenophobia for example....this is a crime in some EU countries and is specifically one of the offenses to which the EU warrant applies.

In theory, my stating that "I hate Frenchies" (in fact, given the real meaning of xenophobia, I fear Frenchies) is an offense for which the rozzers can come round, pick me up, stick me on a plane and send me to France to face charges.  That is, send me off to a place with no Habeus Corpus, trial by jury or many of the other things that constitute what we regard as a fair trial. That this blog  can be read in France means that the words have been published there. I have no appeal against this, no route or method in the English courts of asking for the evidence, arguing the case or anything else. I am simply delivered up to a foreign jurisdiction for them to do as they want.

We have had the Civil Contingencies Act, whereby any Minister, on the say so of that Minister, can lay aside any law they desire. Confiscation of property (with or without compensation), limitations of free movement, in times of emergency, that emergency needing only a Minister to say it is for it to be so. This is not an EU matter, this is purely home grown. BTW, this is justified by the War on Terror....but the actual Act includes the phrase "environmental emergency" and as we know, Sir David King, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government has stated that climate change is a greater threat than terrorism. Join that up and failure to reach the Kyoto targets becomes justification for confiscation of everything one owns. It is not for nothing that this law has been compared to the Nazi’s Enabling Act.

We have a Bill currently before the House to create a National ID Card system. Not content with that, there will be a network of scanners around the country, all linked into a central database, allowing our daily activities to be monitored. The cards will have biometric identification on them, as will the dbase, things like iris patterns. We also have the world’s most extensive CCTV network.....how long before the two are joined and the State is able to monitor your wander down the street?

We have a Home Secretary who has been told by the courts that locking foreigners up and denying them their right to trial is illegal. The basic presumption is that one must either be tried and convicted, or be being held on remand while that process is put in train, for it to be allowable for the State to lock you up. His reaction on being told that foreigners have the same rights as natives was, quite amazingly, to remove that right for natives. Quite. The most basic foundation of the relationship between citizen and state, that of the right to trial, Habeus Corpus and all the rest, has been altered. It is seriously proposed that the Home Secretary should be allowed to intern anyone at all, on no evidence that he has to reveal (and thus can be argued against), for as long as he wishes. We all know that miscarriages of justice happen, the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four being examples, even when there is an open system with judges, juries and the like. We’ll never know under the new system as no one will ever have to tell us.

While these two, ID cards and the abolition of Habeus Corpus are home grown, it is interesting to note that (almost) all of our EU colleagues have the former and do not have the latter. Only the most cynical of paranoids could possibly believe that this is part of a long term harmonisation project.

Just to add insult to injury the Fascists who currently rule us have decided to adopt the latest wheeze from our EU partners in this increasingly hated filled marriage.

Ministers have been criticised for backing European Union plans to allow police to raid the homes of people not suspected of breaking British law.
The proposal is still being negotiated in the EU and is not expected to become law for some time. But the Home Office has angered the Commons European scrutiny committee by disclosing that it is not opposed to the principle of the police executing a search warrant in connection with conduct that would be legal in Britain.

So now, going back to the above example of me dissing the Frogs, (and there is an interesting wrinkle to this in the new constitution. It is clearly stated that nationality will not be considered in any test as to whether an offense has been committed. It’s a basic principle, that all EU citizens, whatever their nationality, must be treated similarly. Now, if a Frenchman can say "I hate Frogs", something that would not only be a startling outbreak of good sense but also clearly not xenophobia, then an Englishman must be able to say the same.) the French police can now force the British police to knock my door down, confiscate my computer and then hold it for however long they wish. And I cannot even argue about the search warrant for, given that xenophobia is not a crime in England, there are no grounds for me to be able to object.

All of this is happening in a system where, if you remember Bernard Connelly, the highest court in the system has said that criticism of the EU  can be curtailed without it being a breach of free speech, in much the same way that restrictions on blasphemy are not a restriction of free speech.

What a free and happy land we are building. Anyone surprised that I think we should get out now while we still can?

January 31, 2005 in European Union | Permalink

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Comments

I don't think the Froggies could get you for xenophobia. EAW-able offences are listed by Statewatch at

http://www.statewatch.org/news/2004/jan/01euro-arrest-warrant.htm

Posted by: Jamie Young | Jan 31, 2005 3:02:05 PM

I don't think the Froggies could get you for xenophobia. EAW-able offences are listed by Statewatch at

http://www.statewatch.org/news/2004/jan/01euro-arrest-warrant.htm

Posted by: Jamie Young | Jan 31, 2005 3:05:41 PM

Whoops - look's like you're right after all! Statewatch does list:

- racism and xenophobia

As offences allowing an EAW to be served.

Does anyone know where these crimes are defined for the purposes of the EAW?

Posted by: Jamie Young | Jan 31, 2005 3:09:42 PM

The process of dismantling our civil liberties has been in progress for at least a decade, e.g. Howard's Criminal Justice Act attacking the right to silence, and his attempts to introduce ID cards and curb jury trial plus the Police Act 1997 (one of the last pieces of Tory legislation) which allowed the police to break into a house on their own authority.

For a moment Labour looked as if they might not do this sort of thing, e.g. passing the Human Rights Act. But then they accelerated the process, and went well beyond anything Howard proposed as Home Secretary (though it's worth noting he backed the Civil Contingencies Act as well as the ID cards Bill).

We have no privacy from the state, worth speaking of.

Medical privacy was compromised in the Health and Social Care Act, giving the Health Secretary the power to turn over your medical records to anyone he chooses.

Financial privacy went out the window years ago, and is such that now the DWP and local council officials can, on their own authority, demand anyone's financial details from banks, credit card companies, utility companies, etc.

Under RIPA the police, security agencies, plus numerous govt departments and even local councils, can self-authorise surveillance of who you communicate with electronically.

Under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, plans for retaining this data for a year for retrospective trawling were pushed forward.

And the police were given the power to access confidential information held by govt departments (and I think other public bodies) for the purposes of investigating any crime, or even considering launching an investigation.

We've also seen attacks on the presumption of innocence prior to 9/11, such as the Football Disorder Act's powers to place travel bans on people without proving they committed any offence.

Then there's the Proceeds of Crime Act where your assets can be seized using a civil procedure without proving you committed any offence. They only need to prove on balance of probabilities that the assets concerned may have been the proceeds of crime, and not necessarily your crime.

Then of course there's the earlier attacks on jury trial, the removal of the prohibition ondouble jeopardy, the altering of the rules of evidence to allow hearsay by default and evidence of bad character (including previous convictions and acquittals).

Plus there's the detention of foreigners without trial and now the proposed detention of anyone without trial, only the venue has changed.

They have systematically dismantled civil liberties and trashed the rule of law. It started before 9/11, and it has applied across many areas of policy that have nothing to do with terrorism or even crime.

Britain is sinking into a police state. It's as simple as that.

I fear for the long term future of this country.

These powers will give enormous opportunities for unscrupulous and overzealous govt officials to abuse their power.

And they leave the country vulnerable to outright tyranny. E.g. a prolonged deep recession or a terrorist campaign might give some wannabe Hitler the opportunity to take over and exercise these powers to the fullest extent, silencing any opposition to them by using a mix of permanent powers and powers invoked under the CCA.

It's time the people of this country stood up and said "no" to this crap and demanded their rights back. One thing's for certain, the more this sort of thing's allowed to go on, the more costly the path back to liberty will be. Each new measure forecloses opportunities for turning things back, and makes the process harder. I fear we're close to a tipping point.

Posted by: James Hammerton | Feb 1, 2005 1:03:08 AM

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