The Rights You Didn't Know You'd Lost

Recent decades have seen a dramatic curtailing of hard won civil liberties. These restrictions have been inadvertently cushioned by the expansion of the internet and the ability to exercise some of these rights by proxy on the web. Today we look at the scale of the civil liberties confiscations.

Rowan Atkinson discusses freedom of expression

ORG urges caution over web blocking orders

ORG logoIn response to the BPI's call to block three websites before Christmas, Jim Killock from the Open Rights Group said:"Web blocking is an extreme response. The orders are often indefinite and open ended, and will be blocking legitimate uses. The BPI and the courts need to slow down and be very careful about this approach.

"The BPI seem to be trying to speed things up and that is not good. It will lead to carelessness and unneeded harms.

"As an approach, censorship is a bad idea. It leads to more censorship, and is unlikely to solve the problem it seeks to address.

Don't Be On A Database

The Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) have launched a campaign to limit the gathering of data by the police on political protest. The campaign, don't be on a database, encourages protesters to assert their legal rights to keep their personal details private. The campaign includes a series of posters and flyers with the words, 'Your name and address are none of their business'.

Police Opt Out Of Accountability

Suppose if I were a bus driver, out on my rounds, driving drunk and recklessly and somewhere along the line there was a dreadful fatal collision. The next morning I agreed to give a written statement but absolutely refused to meet the investigators of the crash, refusing to tell them, in person, my version of events.

Furthermore, what would you think if my wilful unaccountable silence was known about yet decidedly not reported and positively glazed over in the media when reporting on the event?

Police Misconduct

Police Misconduct has been the subject of great debate recently. Drs Mawby and Wright of Keele University provide an excellent summary of police accountability . Their document gives us all an excellent overview of a subject we [ the public] know little about. Many may believe that police accountability is not relevant to them but it is important to understand that the public get the quality of service they fight for. Emergencies can happen at any time, day or night - to anyone. A police officer can make the difference between life and death. It is in everyone's interest to ensure that policing in the UK is proportionate, accountable and done with utmost respect to the civil liberties. The public have a right to expect the highest standards - afterall, it is the tax payer who pays for the UK's policing and pays out compensation for the mistakes made. It is therefore in the interest of the economy to have robust, effective policing not a version of the Wild West.

SOAS protest trials collapse after video contradicts police lies

Two more cases collapsed at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court on Monday, 31 October when police offered no evidence against student demonstrators following the acquittal of a third protestor the previous week.

Aaron Peters and Ashok Kumar, both PhD students, had the cases against them dismissed after dramatic video and photo evidence was presented in a related case against Simon Behrman on the Thursday, 27 October.

The footage and photos found on the Internet by Kumar's solicitor, Matt Foot, directly contradict the witness statements of six police officers. "Five arrests were instigated by primarily one police officer who basically lied," said Peters in an interview with this writer.

UK police have rings of steel

ANPR stands for Automatic Number Plate Recognition. The UK has a network of ANPR cameras which can be found on most motorways and main roads, as well as at ports, petrol stations, and in a few cases entirely surrounding the centre of some cities or towns - a so-called 'ring of steel'.

Private police operating beyond the law

Interesting article in the Independent today:

Hundreds of privately contracted police officers are working for forces across the country despite being unaccountable to the watchdog responsible for investigating deaths in custody, public complaints and allegations of wrongdoing, an investigation by The Independent has found.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has no automatic power to discipline privately contracted staff even if individual failures or misconduct contribute to the death or serious injury of a detainee.

The Government has failed to close this regulatory loophole despite warnings dating back several years. The IPCC has investigated a number of cases in which privately contracted staff were found to be working alongside police officers when a detainee suffered serious harm or death.

The privatisation of public spaces

It was NemesisRepublic who pointed me in the direction of a document by Anna Minton - on the privatisation of public space.

The first time I stumbled across this as a concept was during my Brighton days when anti-capitalist types in the Brighton Peace and Environment Centre (where I was a volunteer in the information resource centre during its Gardner Street days) told me that people could not protest inside the Churchill Square Shopping Centre because it was legally private property.