Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Not a Happy New Year for rule of Law

Marcel Berlins writes in the Guardian of his pessimism for 2006.

"Top of my fears is a continuation of the government's intemperate assault on basic civil liberties, all in the cause of the "war against terrorism". This will inevitably be accompanied by stout resistance from our judges, followed closely by a thuggish and abusive reaction from whoever is home secretary at the time. Who would have thought, only a few years ago, that our much maligned conservative, allegedly out-of-touch, government-lackey judiciary would be the main defenders of our liberties and the rule of law against an executive (Labour, what's more) hell-bent on destroying them? The most recent bit of appalling legislation, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, was used to convict Maya Evans, who, near the Cenotaph, read out the names of British soldiers who died in Iraq. This, asserts Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, is in no way a restriction of freedom of expression. The only element of light relief is that the law which snared Maya Evans was passed mainly to deal with the unwelcome (to the authorities) presence of the Parliament Square peace protester Brian Haw - only for a judge to rule that his activities weren't covered by the law. Yesterday another immensely objectionable part of the same act came into force, in effect allowing the police to arrest without warrant anyone for any offence, however trivial, and as a result to be entitled to keep their DNA samples, fingerprints or photographs for evermore, whether or not they are ever charged or convicted. Many more such outrageous ideas will be thought up in 2006; some, regrettably, will become law."

Spyblog points to the Texas experience of such a law.

"So to any English readers out there, let me fill you in on what you're in for, since we've been living with this situation in Texas for awhile now: Soon your local jails will be completely full of low-level arrestees at a huge cost to the taxpayers and with little benefit to public safety

Welcome to the Texas criminal justice model. Enjoy"

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