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May 27, 2007

The Police State

Getting closer, isn't it?

NEW anti-terrorism laws are to be pushed through before Tony Blair leaves office giving “wartime” powers to the police to stop and question people.

John Reid, the home secretary, who is also quitting next month, intends to extend Northern Ireland’s draconian police powers to interrogate individuals about who they are, where they have been and where they are going.

Under the new laws, police will not need to suspect that a crime has taken place and can use the power to gain information about “matters relevant” to terror investigations.

If suspects fail to stop or refuse to answer questions, they could be charged with a criminal offence and fined up to £5,000. Police already have the power to stop and search people but they have no right to ask for their identity and movements.

There you are, amiably wandering down the street, and if a policeman so wishes, he can not only stop and search you, he can insist that you divulge where you have been and where you are going. If you have more than £1,000 in cash on you it can be confiscated, you having to prove where you got it from and what you were going to do with it: for the assumption is that such cash amounts are the proceeds or enablers of crime and so the burden of proof reverses. Finally, if you keep silent John Reid wants this to be taken as proof of your guilt.

A free, happy and liberal land now, isn't it?

May 27, 2007 in Law | Permalink

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» Britain to Repeal Magna Carta from Outside The Beltway | OTB
Tony Blair explains in a Sunday Times op-ed why basic liberties Englishmen have considered a birthright since Magna Carta are no longer convenient. As for British nationals who pose a threat to us, we need to be able to monitor them carefully and limit... [Read More]

Tracked on May 27, 2007 2:07:12 PM

» On the proposed Stop and Question powers from Magna Carta Plus News
Britains (soon to be ex-)Home Secretary, John Reid has apparently proposed that the police should be given powers to stop and question people (see also the Telegraphs and BBCs coverage), possibly without needing to have rea... [Read More]

Tracked on May 28, 2007 7:45:23 PM

Comments

You must admit there are still encouraging signs. The Police haven't been empowered to torture those detained until they confess their identity and from my experience on being asked for proof of personal identity when collecting parcels from the Royal Mail sorting office, showing a paid and receipted utility bill is quite sufficient.

Posted by: Bob B | May 27, 2007 10:59:21 AM

"The Police haven't been empowered to torture those detained until they confess their identity"

Very few police states explicitly give these powers. They are implicitly granted, and we are slowly going there too. For example, someone being arrested and held for 13 hours on gun crime laws (the owner of a Lara Croft doll) despite there being laughably no cause is an example of mild torture in retribution for the police being made to look foolish. This kind of thing is becoming remarkable in that it now happens so often with so little protest.

Once the police and Government sees that society tolerates this kind of low-level mistreatment, the next steps are taken. It won't be many years of this febrile atmosphere before you will be seeing genuine torture (sleep deprivation, truth drugs, stress positions, etc.). Once that is tolerated, it's on to the more brutal kind of torture (electroshocks, waterboarding, simulated executions). And then finally we'll reach the full-on stage (actual executions, defenestrations, etc.).

The question is, how much will the public put up with? We are already seeing mass stop-and-search on public transport, with people that have foreign accents being stopped and questioned about nationality.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/09/15/ukis_immigrant_id_trawl/

Right now, these operations are limited by the law: they have no right to demanding papers of everyone on a train, and even though they are mounting operations where they send all tube passengers through metal detectors, they can't enforce it (although the police apparently get very angry if you refuse to be searched).

If the proposed law is passed then you can very much expect internal checkpoints to become a way of life in London if not other major cities. Do people really want to live in a country where we are routinely asked for papers in every "pinch point" (tube station, football stadium, supermarket entrance, footbridge, etc.)?

At some point the public will have had enough, but if that point comes after the freedom of the press and democracy is curtailed, then what?

Posted by: Kay Tie | May 27, 2007 11:47:59 AM

If this comes in the UK will be a police state. Such legislation actually creates the potential for terrorism from people who have not previously felt they could support such acts, for faced with a state that tramples on basic freedoms how are people to resist? Some will choose violence and justify it on the basis of the state's violence, which will lead to yet more draconian powers (detention without trial is not far away and will be used against those who advocate non-violent measures because they represent the greatest threat to state power).

Posted by: DocBud | May 27, 2007 12:25:47 PM

Do people really want to live in a country where we are routinely asked for papers in every "pinch point" (tube station, football stadium, supermarket entrance, footbridge, etc.)?

We are already subject to a form of "Papiere, bitte!" at tube stations. Or didn't you realise that London transport can track those Oyster cards? And as for supermarkets, what do you think the "loyalty" card does?

Posted by: xj | May 27, 2007 12:33:09 PM

"Or didn't you realise that London transport can track those Oyster cards? And as for supermarkets, what do you think the "loyalty" card does?"

Much is worrying about the way the Oyster card is seen by the authorities as ID-card-lite, but you can still use an anonymous Oyster card and you can use cash and you can choose not to have a Tesco loyalty card. But when the State assumes mandatory powers there will be no choice about being corralled and interrogated simply by walking down the street.

Posted by: Kay Tie | May 27, 2007 12:51:30 PM

"detention without trial is not far away and will be used against those who advocate non-violent measures because they represent the greatest threat to state power"

A good point. Look to the US and see how the No Fly List has been used as an unaccountable way of harassing and restricting the freedoms of those critical to the George Bush regime (including academics and political figures). The Constitution outlaws this kind of abuse, but the Supreme Court refuses petitions to rule on it. The perils of one party controlling all three branches of Government..

Posted by: Kay Tie | May 27, 2007 12:55:59 PM

The CHEKA is a continuing source of inspiration for many later imitations:

"The government has secretly set up a VIP 'stalker' squad to identify and detain terrorists and other individuals who pose a threat to prominent people. The unit, staffed by police and psychiatrists, will have the power to detain suspects indefinitely using mental health laws. The Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) was quietly established last October . . . "
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article1847697.ece

Posted by: Bob B | May 27, 2007 5:44:26 PM

Once Labour gave up its economic 'theory', all that was left was the free-form bullying you'd expect from a bunch of Trade Unionists and Socialists. If the Tories have given up their conservative and liberal principles, what's left? The soapy smiles of the PR man, I suppose.

Posted by: dearieme | May 27, 2007 6:07:42 PM

"At some point the public will have had enough...then what?"


What? You don't know? The obvious my dear.

Joe Stalin - "socialist" Mass Murderer!! Tony Blair - "socialist" Mass Murderer!!

Posted by: Joe Stalin - Mass Murderer!! Tony Blair - Mass Murderer | May 27, 2007 6:59:34 PM