A week or so ago Brian Barder’s ‘blog,
contained an piece about how David Blunkett’s Home Office seemed to
have plans to deal with some of our most cherished liberties. Brian
used a couple of recent examples; “ Diversity: Towards a Community
Cohesion and Race Equality Strategy” and the draft proposals to
introduce identification cards.
I cannot disagree with anything written here, Brian. But as I came to your last words, I asked myself, “Do enough people care?”. I mean really care enough to make sure these Draconian measures are not, as you put it, “smuggled” onto the statute book? I’m afraid my confidence level is not much above absolute zero.
The examples of statutory “smuggling” within the criminal law, in my professional career alone, are terrifying.
No longer does an arrested person have an untrammelled right to say nothing when questioned in the police station.
No longer does an accused person have the right to keep his defence to himself until trial. In cases of rape and now other sexual offences, a defendant facing, on conviction, many uncomfortable years in jail, finds it increasingly difficult to challenge the complainant’s sexual history. The chances of miscarriages in this area alone increase as juries are now being asked to believe either the complainant or the defendant. No need for corroboration!
Thousands of kids are being criminalised by the use of the powers contained in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The civil law provisions in the Act allow the police use second-hand hearsay evidence to obtain Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.
The government has not exhausted this crafty procedure; a civil order followed by criminal proceedings, with substantial periods of custody for breach. Five years in the case of an ASBO. And Blunkett’s teeth have been sharpened.
Have a look at Section 5 of the Domestic Violence and Victims Bill introduced in the House of Lords at, I think, the turn of the year.Conviction is no longer a pre-requisite for an Order!
5A Restraining orders on acquittal
(1) A court before which a person (“the defendant”) is acquitted of an offence may, if it considers it necessary to do so to protect a person from harassment by the defendant, make an order prohibiting the defendant from doing anything described in the order.
(2) In proceedings under this section both the prosecution and the defence may lead, as further evidence, any evidence that would be admissible in proceedings for an injunction under section 3(civil procedure-AEH)
The maximum penalty for breach of an order-five years.
I shudder to think what the Labour Party’s manifesto for the next election will contain. Law'n'Order, we are told, will be at its heart. I wonder if anyone will really mind, if amongst its provisions are the implanting, under the skin, of a chip to which details can be added during the lifetime if the citizen. Or the compulsory taking of DNA to complete the gaps in present database, which now contains a miserable collection of those arrested or reported for any criminal offence.And yes, Number 51, the national database behind the ID card! A few years ago the limits to the digital storage of information made these ideas fanciful. Today, the technologies are increasing exponentially whilst the costs of storage are moving with equal speed in the opposite direction. We are now a nation of involuntary Prozac users who find “Big Brother” an entertainment.