Tag Archives: civil liberties

Alison McInnes MSP writes…The Scottish Justice Secretary is wrong to say stop and search is an operational matter

Police stop and search1st April 2014 marked the 1st anniversary of Police Scotland, a single national police force that replaced our 8 regional forces.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats were the only group in the Scottish Parliament to oppose the national force from the outset.

One of the key strengths of Scotland’s policing up until then had been its local foundations.  Funded by local councils, managed by local officers and officials, accountable to locally elected representatives, responsive to local needs.

photo by: Tony Austin
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Stop and search nonchalance from Justice Secretary shows why Scotland needs the Liberal Democrats

Police BrutalityIn January, I wrote about the worryingly high police stop and search figures in Scotland, which is proportionately much higher than in England includes over 500 children under 10 years old.

Now it transpires that these figures may not be accurate. And may be made up. According to the Edinburgh Evening News:

Official figures show a huge number of incidents where stop-and-search powers have been used since the creation of a single police force. Critics claim officers are under pressure because the number of stop-searches has been made a “key

photo by: Tony Austin
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Julian Huppert MP writes…Nick Clegg has put Liberal Democrats far ahead of other parties on security and privacy

This morning was a good day for Liberal Democrats. I and many others went to RUSI, the Royal United Services Institute to hear Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of our party, deliver a speech on security and privacy in the internet age.

He sent out a clear and strong message: the legal framework for the UK’s intelligence agencies and intelligence oversight structure is in desperate need of an overhaul, and this must start with an independent review, which he has commissioned.

His wider ambitions are set out in a piece for the Guardian today. The Tories are blocking changes …

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Opinion: Do people not care about civil liberties?

It is inevitable that amongst the images of more than 1.8 million Yahoo! users hoovered up by GCHQ there are photos of children, and surely – given the scale of it – of children in their bedrooms. Yet where is the outcry?This latest discovery from the Snowden files is not simply the next chapter in the story of how every aspect of our online lives has been monitored over recent years. It also blows apart the standard defence used so far that only metadata – who called who when, but not the content – has been gathered up and …

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Do we need to start educating Scotland’s primary school children about their rights?

Shocking figures show that police in Scotland have stopped and searched 750,000 people in the last year. The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research report also found that 500 children under 10 were stopped and searched in 2010 alone.  This has caused concern from human rights and children’s organisations.

Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie, writing in the Herald said:

On any reading, it is clear that young people are being targeted and there will be times when their rights are being infringed.

In a the country that claims to be committed to children’s rights and wants to be the best

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Guy Verhofstadt writes… 2014 European elections and the challenge for Liberals

This year’s European elections are bound to be a tough fight. Eurosceptics such as UKIP and the French National Front are determined to turn back the clock and tear down the internal market, stoking xenophobia and putting millions of jobs at risk. In the UK context, the Conservatives appear to want to throw in the towel and leave the EU, whilst Labour are still sitting uncomfortably on the fence. Only Lib Dems are clear where they stand as the party of In.

Being the main pro-European party, across the EU, though does not mean defending the status quo. As Liberals we …

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Tim Farron MP writes: Liberal Democrats must stand up against blanket internet surveillance

I regularly get asked “who are your Liberal Heroes?” and I’ll reel off a list of people like Beveridge, Penhaligon and Paddy Ashdown and usually the person who has asked the question nods and smiles. Then I will tell them that the person I most admire is Harry Willcock. That’s typically met with a look of bemusement! I got similar looks of bewilderment when I cited Harry in 2005 in one of my first speeches in the House of Commons when I opposed Labours ID cards bill…

But Harry is at the top of my list because he was the Liberal that helped stop ID Cards in …

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LibLink: Tim Farron – Only a fool could trust in the ‘oversight’ provided by the intelligence committee

Over on Politics.co.uk party president Tim Farron has a piece on the ramifications of the story that has dominated much of the past year: the extent of the powers held by states to snoop on our communications. Tim sets out some thoughts about the oversight of these systems, which he thinks are presently inadequate.

Here’s an excerpt:

Our democratic process is built upon a system of checks and balances. Those who exercise power over the individual are held to account by others. For all the faults of the Westminster bubble (and there are many), the quiet revolution in the way select committees

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Norman Baker writes… “We’re not turning into authoritarians!”

Today the Independent published a story about the Coalition Government’s plans to reform anti-social behaviour legislation.  I know that many Lib Dems may well be concerned by the story. Indeed, if it were true I would be worried! But it is not. It is utter nonsense to suggest we are targeting skateboarders, ramblers, youngsters playing in their local park, or anyone else going about their daily lives perfectly reasonably.

In reality the new anti-social behaviour powers are designed to protect such activities. Rather, the power is designed to stop problem drinking, aggressive begging, dog fouling – any behaviour that spoils the …

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Huppert warns against “sleepwalking into a surveillance society”

huppert_caption compIt’s become a truth universally acknowledged in the Liberal Democrats that wherever there is a threat to our freedoms, Julian Huppert will be there trying to thwart it, whether that’s convenient for the party leadership or not.  Most of the time, it has to be said, it is convenient for the leadership, but it’s worth remembering that if it hadn’t been for the combination of him and some angry bloggers, we might be in a world where the Communications Data Act of 2012 had been passed.

And so it was on …

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The lessons we must learn for Nick Clegg’s next holiday

Nick Clegg’s two spells of holiday this Summer have been characterised by the Home Office in particular getting above itself in his absence. Both the party and Nick’s Special Advisers should have learned from the furore over the “Go home” poster vans. The Home Office pulled a fast one by implementing this pilot without telling the Liberal Democrats. The response from the Party was the right one – that they were “disproportionate, distasteful and ineffective” and Vince Cable saying a few days later that they were stupid and offensive. The problem was that the response came out by …

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Liblink: Nick Clegg “I share the concerns about David Miranda’s detention”

You can’t accuse Nick Clegg of hiding away. Now that he’s returned from holiday, his first direct public comment on the Miranda detention and Guardian files controversy comes in a column in that paper.

First, where the Liberal Democrats are coming from:

Liberal Democrats believe government must tread the fine line between liberty and security very carefully, and are not easily persuaded by a government minister asserting: “Just trust me.” So now that we are in government, we have been vigilant in ensuring the right decisions are made: scrutinising and challenging the assumptions of security experts, even as we give them our

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David Miranda’s detention – what do the public think?

Polling firm YouGov has surveyed the British public on their attitudes to this week’s big news story: the detention of David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who’s worked with Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence officer on whistleblowing / leaking details of the the surveillance activities of the US and British intelligence agencies.

‘Public divided’ is how YouGov’s summarised it, pretty fairly. This in itself is surprising: generally the public favours ‘national security’ over ‘individual liberty’ when push comes to shove. This suggests the police’s actions, possibly in themselves unlawful, have worried more than just the usual civil …

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Sarah Ludford MEP writes…Conference must debate Miranda detention

I was not initially planning to get particularly involved on the David Miranda Schedule 7 issue except as a concerned, nay horrified, spectator. After all, I’m an MEP not an MP nor (at present) able to be active as a peer, and I have plenty on my plate in Brussels.

But from early Monday morning, as I read the admirably vigorous response from the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation David Anderson QC – and the immediate if deeply hypocritical reaction from Yvette Cooper – I did start to wonder who from the party was going to be vocal. So I tweeted …

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Some more information on the reasoning behind Nick Clegg’s approval of the destruction of the Guardian’s information

I think it’s been quite clear, both in the comments to our earlier post giving Nick’s views on the Miranda/Guardian case that people were still unhappy and many felt, including me, that they didn’t really understand why he decided to approve the request to the Guardian to destroy the data that they held. Elsewhere in the Liberal Democrat blogosphere, people like Neil Monnery and Andrew Brown have expressed their concern about Nick’s actions.

This has not gone unnoticed by the party’s spokespeople. They’ve noticed that people have been wondering why they had a quiet word with the Guardian rather than …

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Nick Clegg’s office speaks out on Miranda detention and destruction of Guardian data

nick clegg by paul walterA spokesperson for Nick Clegg has released the following statement to the press:

We understand the concerns about recent events, particularly around issues of freedom of the press and civil liberties. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.

On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent

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Opinion: Secret courts and the detention of David Miranda

For a number of years where it was felt that taking a case into court may result in information being divulged that could harm national security successive British Governments have settled out of court.
 
This Coalition Government decided that this approach was too costly and so resolved to introduce closed material procedures, or secret courts, for civil cases brought by citizens against the intelligence services.
In these secret courts the citizen will lay their case before a Judge, who will then sit in private with the intelligence services present but the Citizen not, and consider evidence that may never have been seen

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Paddick: Police have some explaining and reassuring to do on Miranda detention

Brian Paddick has just gone on the BBC News Channel to talk, very briefly, about the detention of David Miranda. The former Liberal Democrat London mayoral candidate, recently ennobled by Nick Clegg, has a unique perspective on the issue.

He was quite careful in his use of language, but the overall impression I took from what he was saying is that he’s not entirely convinced that the detention was justified. He said that it was extremely unusual for a transiting passenger to be stopped in this way and that the authorities must have had some sort of intelligence that he would …

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Why I’m not so worried about David Miranda’s detention

When David Miranda was arrested under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act at Heathrow Airport on Sunday morning, he had the best lawyers the Guardian could afford at least  arguing with the authorities if not with him for all of that time, the newspaper itself and the Brazilian Government, concerned at the treatment of one of its own citizens, to stick up for him. Even then, the authorities held on to him to within minutes of the maximum nine hours. Holding the partner of the journalist who has been working on a story alleging that Governments have been acting beyond …

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Opinion: The Naked Rambler: a response to David Allen

David Allen recently wrote that supporting Stephen Gough, known as the Naked Rambler was a cause for “fundementalist liberals”. This isn’t a case of moderates versus fundementalists, it’s a case that all good liberals should support.

As liberals most of us will accept some degree of the Harm Principle, that people should roughly be able to do what they want as long as they don’t hurt others. Taking this basic principle into consideration there is no possible harm that anyone can do simply by the act of being nude within public. If we want to shed our clothes and our …

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LibLink…Paddy Ashdown: NSA surveillance: who watches the watchers?

Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Guardian about what he considers should be the key principles underpinning any state intrusion into our communications, online or otherwise. First of all, he tackled the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” argument:

We have recently been told, even by those charged with overseeing the extent of state intrusion in our lives, that citizens who are not breaking the law have no cause to be concerned about intrusion into their private lives.

Wrong point. The right one is: if governments never broke the law, citizens would have no cause to be concerned. But no

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Opinion: Communications Data Bill is a threat to liberty

The issue of the Communications Data Bill has found its way back into the national debate in the wake of another tragic terrorist attack. We again face the proposition of the government having the power to access vast amounts of data on our online communications and activates.

This Bill would force communications and internet providers to store web browsing history and details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming, in addition to emails and phone calls. But also the time, duration, originator and recipient of any communication and the location of …

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Official: the snoopers’ charter is dead in this parliament

One element missing from the Queen’s Speech was the Communications Data Bill, aka the ‘snoopers’ charter’. No surprise to Lib Dems: Nick Clegg torpedoed it last month.

So I had a momentary spasm of concern to see on ConservativeHome this story from Mark Wallace: The Snoopers’ Charter comes sneaking back. Again.

I asked Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert (who’s played a crucial role in safeguarding civil liberties this parliament, including on this Bill) if there were any truth in it, and got an immediate reply…

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Liberal Democrats risk civil liberties blind spot on EU crime and policing laws

There are few issues that galvanise Liberal Democrat members like civil liberties. Since going into coalition, party members have upheld this tradition by campaigning on a range of issues, most notably the so-called snooper’s charter and secret courts. However, the party has also traditionally been strongly committed to European co-operation – what happens when these clash?

The immediate context is the choice facing the coalition on whether to definitely opt into around 130 EU criminal and justice laws, including the European Arrest Warrant, by 2014. This is part of a wider debate whether it …

Posted in Europe / International and The Independent View | 6 Comments

LibLink…Nick Thornsby: The snooper’s charter has reminded Nick Clegg, finally, he is a liberal

Yes, I know, it is Snoopers’ Charter Central here on Liberal Democrat Voice today. I hope you will forgive us for being relieved and delighted that Nick Clegg has made sure that the Government will not be bringing forward an illiberal, unnecessary and intrusive measure.

Over at the Guardian’s Comment is Free, our Nick Thornsby has given his take on the issue, going back through the events of the past year since the idea first emerged. At that point the Party was furious that we could even contemplate such a thing:

 Their anger was such that a hastily arranged conference call with

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Opinion: A reference article for the Communications Data bill

Back in February 2012, I became concerned about rumours of proposed new legislation which would put in place the means for monitoring all UK citizens’ online and mobile communications – legislation which had previously been thrown out as unworkable by opposition parties when the last Labour government tried something similar.

I wrote a policy amendment, appended to Julian Huppert’s Spring 2012 Conference motion on civil liberties, setting out what I hoped would be a good Liberal Democrat position against those – then unseen – proposals. If I’d known then what was to be …

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Secret Courts..what does the party do now?

Its’s not been the easiest 24 hours to be a Liberal Democrat. It was very hard to watch the majority of our MPs vote to remove the right to a fair trial in civil cases where national security is deemed to be a factor.  Just seven MPs voted in favour of amendments advised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The fact that the JCHR had a different view from the Government should surely have raised a huge red flag. An even bigger signal that our MPs were on the wrong course was the fact that Labour were voting in …

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The Independent View: only 24 hours left to have your say on adult filtering

Default blocking of online adult material is a controversial and illiberal policy, which has attracted criticism from plenty of Liberal Democrats – and rightly so. Default Internet censorship takes decisions about what is appropriate for families and households out of parents’ hands. In the process the Government would be constructing an infrastructure of censorship that will be inefficient, error-ridden and open to abuse.

Default blocking will mean the Government and technology companies, rather than parents, deciding what is ‘appropriate’ for children and young people. Filtering can give parents a false sense of security and also inevitably leads to the the ‘wrong’ …

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Opinion: Unelected Lords are against the spirit of the European Convention on Human Rights

For as long as philosophers and political campaigners have asserted that certain rights are basic, universal or inalienable, the right to elect one’s legislators has generally figured in those rights.

England’s 1689 Bill of Rights protected the right to elect Members of Parliament without interference from the Crown.  In France the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man guaranteed the right to vote. In America, five separate Articles of the US Bill of Rights protect voting rights and both Houses are elected under the Constitution.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides:

Article 21

(1) Everyone has the right to take part

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The Independent View: FairCopUK – a new campaign for police honesty

FairCopUK is a new campaign for the UK police to be required to be honest when explaining what your rights are and what powers they have. I was inspired to set up the campaign by Richard Taylor’s suggestion that the police should not be allowed to lie or mislead without justification.

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    Sir Archibald Sinclair didn't speak of austerity, lowering taxes or marketisation, let alone four cornered Liberalism, but of employment for all and building the welfare...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 18th Apr - 1:58am
    Great post by Andrew Suffield. It is both practical and principled.
  • User AvatarA Social Liberal 18th Apr - 1:33am
    Thomas Unlike malc - I don't think it is a fair point at all. As an officer in the armed forces of a country in...
  • User AvatarAndrew Suffield 18th Apr - 1:27am
    Presumably those that find means testing acceptable will be looking forward to extending “pay or die” to these people in the not too distant future…...
  • User Avatarmalc 18th Apr - 1:06am
    Thomas Robinson: Fair point and one it's hard to argue with. Also the UK has military base's in Cyprus, Germany, Holland, Gibraltar, Norway etc. Perhaps...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 18th Apr - 12:56am
    Here's Simon Jenkins's piece: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/16/janus-faced-george-osborne-defied-stereotype-triumphed