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Many people on this board are used to hearing how civil liberties are being eroded in the US, however powers granted by the PATRIOT act seem tame compared to the powers UK government has been using is massive parliamentary majority to appoint itself. Many of these measure pre-date 9/11, however 9/11 has been very politically useful in accelerating this programme.
Terror Bill: Taking liberties Today, the House of Lords debates the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. So how have our civil rights been eroded under Tony Blair?
In the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on America, Labour rushed through legislation that allowed ministers to authorise the indefinite detention of foreign terror suspects. In December last year, the House of Lords ruled that such detention was unlawful.
Ministers responded by proposing a series of surveillance and control measures, including house arrest, for foreign and British citizens.
Tony Blair told MPs yesterday that the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, which allows terrorist suspects to be subjected to "control orders", including curfews, tagging or bans on telephone and internet use and ultimately house arrest, was vital to national security. He refused to accept a range of compromises from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and now faces concerted opposition from across the political spectrum in the House of Lords, which begins three days of detailed deliberation on the Bill today.
In the first two years of Tony Blair's premiership, the number of stop-and-searches involving members of Asian and black communities began to fall. But by the end of 1999 that trend had been reversed, with the police making increasing use of its powers against black and Asian citizens. By 2003-04, Asians were 1.9 times more likely to be stopped and searched, up from 1.7 times the year before.
Separate figures on police searches in England and Wales under the Terrorism Act 2000 also showed ethnic minorities were more likely to be targeted. In 2003-04, 12.5 per cent of searches under the laws were on Asian people, although they make up 4.7 per cent of the population.
Last July, the police were accused of Islamophobia by Muslim groups after stop-and-search statistics showed the numbers of Asians targeted up by 300 per cent since introduction of anti-terror laws.
Yesterday, the Home Office minister Hazel Blears faced a growing outcry after she said Muslims should accept as a "reality" that they are more likely to be stopped and search in the fight against extremism.
David Blunkett, the former home secretary, committed Labour to bringing in identity cards. Under these plans, adopted by his successor, Charles Clarke, every citizen will have to have identity documents that must be produced when challenged by a policeman. The ID card plan is thought to cost at least ?3bn and would introduce a biometric card with a person's fingerprints and iris patterns and other personal details.
Right to trial by jury
Labour has devoted a great deal of parliamentary time to trying to curb the right to jury trial. As Home Secretary in 1999, Jack Straw set out plans to end the right to jury trial for people accused of middle-ranking offences. A groundswell of cross-party opposition forced a climbdown. But in 2003, David Blunkett, Mr Straw's successor, succeeded in changing the law allowing judges to sit alone where there was an allegation of jury-nobbling and in cases involving complex fraud. Charles Clarke has mooted judge-only trials for some terrorist cases.
Jack Straw was the home secretary who first proposed allowing the jury to know about a defendant's criminal past. It has been a long-established principle of English law that a defendant could not have a fair trial if such prejudicial material was disclosed. The inevitable political outcry forced the Government to let the judge be the final arbiter. Last year, it became law under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Antisocial Behaviour Orders
This was Labour's solution for tackling yobbish behaviour, brought in under the Crime and Civil Disorder Act 1998. A breach of the order can end in criminal punishment. They are seen as a blueprint for control orders for suspected terrorists.
Ministers have pledged to bring in a points system for economic migrants. Charles Clarke has also said successful asylum-seekers will be given temporary leave to remain up to five years then be reviewed. Removals would be stepped up and more asylum-seekers are to be detained.
A failure to gain convictions in several high-profile cases, including the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993, led to the ending of the rule against double jeopardy. Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, anyone acquitted of a serious crime can be tried again for the same offence.
Tony Blair's much-derided plan to give the police power to march hooligans and vandals to the nearest cash machine was quietly dropped. But new provisions allow the police to fine petty criminals, such as shoplifters and vandals, without going to court.
This means suspects can avoid a criminal conviction if they admit their guilt at the earliest opportunity.
New arrangements between the US and UK mean US law-enforcement officers do not need to show evidence of guilt to gain an extradition order.
I will also add this list the reclassification of natural psilocybin mushrooms as a class-A drug.
I wonder if (good clean living respectable, harmless) people out looking for liberty caps in the forests and mountains this autumn will be getting busted. That's fucked up.
All of that stuff above is fucked up and the law is eternally being moved into a device for maximum revenue, minimum fuss and less and less justice.
The reduction of the checks, right to trial by peers and equal protection under the law make for an easily corruptable system where those that have ideas foreign to the Home secretatry and PM can easily be picked on just for their thoughts. This is the slippery slope to totalitarianism.
Thanks to the original CJB we can't even legally gather in groups of more than 6 people!!! Man the government must be terrified of the people moving into a new way of life less dpendant on the current system and legal drugs (ie Alchohol and nicotine). Whitbread was one of the major sponsors of the CJB...and you know why.
Britain is well and truly sold to the dominant corporations, and our government serves them. Labour...yeh right.
edit: And the maddest thing is - all anyone seems to care about is bloody fox hunting! WTF? People virtually riot over it - I mean come on people. What a red herring.
The most fucked up thing about England IMO is that when you are in public you a being videotaped by the government (very possibly from several angles). I have no reason to not want to be videotaped, but it is the principle of the thing. That better not happen in America.
Welcome to the new world where everyone thinks that the best intentions for looking out for society are by restricting them. Dunno, seems to be a common phrame of mind now adays. Everyone needs it to a degree, but come on, videotaping you and watching your every step... FFS might as well toss you in prison and mandate what you eat, and how you think, It isn't far off with the current logic of how best to protect people.
Question: Is it better to not allow a person to use a gun, or is it better to ensure they know the implications of using a gun and how to use it safely (hunting/security purposes)? This has to do with the issue at hand.
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