Wednesday, June 11, 2008

42 days

A friend of mine was held under the detention of terrorism act once. He was held for days with no contact with lawyers, and no phone call. No one knew where he was not his friends, family or employers. The police knew he wasn't a terrorist, they knew he was a climate campaigner committed to peaceful protest. The sad fact is that no matter what they call the legislation the police will use it however they like.

This is a blunt instrument to combat terrorism, and may even foster it, but it has a far wider implication for civil liberties than just that associated with the war on terror. Over the eleven years of Labour government there has been a consistent and unending shift towards empowering the police to the extent that they can essentially do anything they please.

Three laws for every occasion, four weapons for every face to face with the public. There is little evidence that this is an effective way of dealing with crime, and if the Home Secretary is to be believed it has created a threat "more ruthless than we have ever faced before". Doesn't say much for your method of dealing with the situation does it?

The idea of financial compensation for being held is utterly loathsome. How would this offset being held for more than a month as your spouse thinks you've left them, your employer fills your job with someone else and your reputation is trashed. Bribery might work on MPs but it would be scant comfort for those whose lives have been turned upside down.

As the Welsh MP, Adam Price, says "There are times in politics when it is is permissible to do the wrong thing for the right reason, but for my party this time was not one of them. Your liberty - as citizens of the nations of United Kingdom - is not something that we can trade. Even for £200 million."

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