Friday, January 23, 2015

Nothing to hide or fear from those who would hide the passing of the snoopers' charter

ObiterJ's Law and Lawyers blog is 5 years old today. Happy birthday.

The good blogger marks the occasion by drawing our attention to Sir Brian Leveson's (President of the Queen's Bench Division) - report which has now been published, entitled Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings: Final Report. And in particular paragraph13 of the report,
"Between 1989 and 2009, Parliament approved over 100 Criminal Justice Bills and more than 4,00 criminal offences were added to the statute book. 
From an historical context, the figure is more startling: Halsbury’s Statutes of England & Wales has five volumes devoted to criminal laws that (however old they may be) are still currently in force. Volume One covers the law created in the 637 years between 1351 and 1988, and is 1,249 pages long. Volumes Two to Five cover the laws created in the 24 years between 1989 and 2013 and are no less than 4,921 pages long. The 2013 Supplement adds a further 200 pages. So, more than four times as many pages were needed in Halsbury’s Statutes to cover laws created in the 24 years between 1989 and 2013 than were needed to cover the laws created in the 637 years prior to that."
The legislative garbage being churned out of parliament for the past quarter of a century is indicative of the "something must be done - passing a law is something - we've done something" world of the UK's policymakers.

The latest in this round of damaging (almost) statutes is the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, currently being unconscionably fast-tracked by the government in the wake of the terrible murders of 17 people in Paris. Yesterday, as it is heading for final stages of what passes for parliamentary scrutiny in these difficult times, four members of the House of Lords,


decided to append 18 pages of amendments, effectively trying to sneak the snoopers' charter (aka the Communications Data Bill) into law by the back door. Almost the same (but with even fewer safeguards) snoopers charter that was emphatically rejected by Parliament's Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill.

It's nice to be able to dismantle government actions politely as Lord Pannick did on the Lord Chancellor's approach to judicial review in the House of Lords earlier this week (21 Jan 2015 : Column 1344). But sometimes you need to call a "spade" a "spade", rather than an "earth inverting horticultural instrument". And this action on the part of these four privileged members of the House of Lords is a shameless abuse of parliamentary procedure and an affront to people who have given their lives to secure and defend our precious freedoms.

I suppose they might believe we should trust them.

Maybe we should?

After all, what have we got to to hide or fear from the kind of people who would deign to slip this kind of thoroughly discredited, dangerous, disproportionate, destructive legislative surveillance apparatus surreptitiously onto the statute books? Another 18 pages or so in Halsbury’s Statutes won't be noticed, amongst the 5000+ of the past 25 years.