Lib Dems should question detention of political activist under terror laws

The Sunday Herald carries a very disturbing story about the detention by Police Scotland of a political activist, Eleanor Jones, under the same controversial law that was used to detain David Miranda four years ago.

Ms Jones was heading to Germany from Edinburgh Airport in the Summer when she was detained. She had been in the city attending her grandad’s funeral.

She made her way through security and, after walking towards her gate, was met by two plain-clothed police officers.

She recalled: “It was clear they had expected me and came there to get me – they had a copy of my flight bookings.”

Jones said she was detained for several hours – missing her flight – and was “interrogated” about the political views of her and her family.

She said she was quizzed about her opinions on the UK Government, adding: “They asked about Hamburg as well.”

Jones also said the officers asked her to hand over her iPhone and laptop: “They scanned my data to see if there was anything to prove I was a terrorist. They were going through all my information.

“Once they had scanned and copied my phone’s data they gave it back to me. My laptop was posted back to me in Germany.”

While Ms Jones was released without charge, she missed her flight and has still not been reimbursed for the cost of its replacement by Police Scotland.

I think that there are questions here for both the Scottish and UK Governments. No doubt the Scottish Government will deny all knowledge and say that it is an operational matter for the Police because that’s what they always do, but Scottish Lib Dems should press them as they are accountable and it does seem that the Police have acted without any reasonable grounds. 

The UK Government needs to be pressed to get rid of Schedule 7 once and for all. As Liberty’s Corey Stoughton writes in the Sunday Herald:

Schedule 7’s potential for political abuse has chilling ramifications for protest rights, press freedom and free expression.

Stoughton cites the experience of Faizah Shaheen who was detained under the same law for reading a Syrian book.

Our MSPs and MPs should get to work on this. While Miranda’s detention was everywhere, Jones’ story seems to have hardly raised an eyebrow. We should not stand by and let this sort of thing happen, though. Standing up against this sort of thing is what liberals are for.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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8 Comments

  • Lawrence Fullick 16th Oct '17 - 11:19am

    Who is Ms Jones? Lib Dem or other. What led the authorities to suspect her?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 16th Oct '17 - 11:40am

    This is very worrying, and it is very surprising that the case has not been given more coverage. It seems that Eleanor Jones is the sister of Guardian Columnist Owen Jones, and the police questioned her about her brother’s politics as well as her own. It is possible that there is more to this than we know, but from the article in the Sunday Herald, it sounds as if there were no grounds at all for suspecting her of involvement in terrorism.

  • Mick Taylor 16th Oct '17 - 3:15pm

    It is ironic that Ms Jones should be detained under legislation that started with the last labour Government…

  • Phil Beesley 16th Oct '17 - 3:18pm

    Eleanor Jones was an alert citizen. She handed her phone and computer to the police, and it seems that she delivered pass codes, in the knowledge/expectation that the devices contained nowt. She and the coppers were playing games, but Eleanor Jones was mostly in the corner.

  • Liberal Democrat MSPs and MPs campaigned for the UK government to be able to impose such wide-ranging counter terrorism laws on Scotland. They were happy for this dangerous power to stay on the statute book when they were in coalition in the UK government for a whole five years. They have questions to answer over this and need to be held accountable.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Oct '17 - 8:49pm

    Those above like Catherine are cottoning on to the reality. Sorry Al, it is not really the law here that are the big problem, it is the implementation of them.

    The detail may well be draconian, but , in dangerous times even such laws as are so, can be used sparingly and with due attention.
    Our expert in chief on such things, Maajid Nawaz, who the party does not involve enough, as with others with much to offer, has a terrific phrase he repeats at the relevant point of interest, ” No idea is above scrutiny , no person is beneath dignity.”

    In the treatment of this supposed, and I am using the word carefully, suspect, they the police , did not take on board our Maajid,s sensible view.

    Public services regularly fail our people, who need them, and value them.

    Too often we do not criticise in the way needed to , in order to provide the necessary protection or treatment or education, whether , police , NHS or schools, we deserve better than sullen and slipshod and self indulgence, on the part of placemen and women.

    There are more who do their job well, but that does not excuse those in authority in these organisations who are often useless.

    Don, get me started on the BBC management…

  • One of the very few things I have in common with Jeremy Corbyn is that I’ve opposed every single “anti-terrorism” legislation since the 80s. Not that I have any sympathy with terrorists of any sort – I don’t – but because time and time again these measures have been used against ordinary peaceful political activists (and even on one occasion against Icelandic bankers). This is just the latest disgraceful incident. The worst aspect is that no one in the police (or Government) seems able to be held accountable for any of these actions.

  • OnceALibDem 18th Oct '17 - 8:53am

    “Our MSPs and MPs should get to work on this.” – has anyone said anything on this?

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