Tag Archives: civil liberties

Julian Huppert won’t stand again in Cambridge

Sad news for Julian Huppert’s many fans. He announced on Twitter this weekend that he won’t be standing for Parliament again.

While I understand that he might want his life back after seven years of ceaseless campaigning, I am very sad to see this. Julian was on the same side as me on practically every argument the party has had. It was fantastic to have such a prominent figure in the party campaigning so strongly against replacing Trident.

Julian was such a credible voice on matters of science and technology and riled the less knowledgeable to the extent that they greeted him with derision every time he got up to speak. He played a crucial role in making sure that the party stopped the Tories introducing the Snoopers’ Charter during the coalition years.

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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. 

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Another civil liberties victory for the Scottish Lib Dems

Over the years, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have been responsible for a number of changes in policing and civil liberties policies in Scotland. After we led the opposition, the Scottish Government had to abandon plans for a super ID database that would have made Labour’s look like a champion of civil liberties. Alison McInnes, when she was Justice Spokesperson in the last Parliament, successfully fought both routine arming of the Police and indiscriminate stop and search.

That record continues as the Lib Dems have now ensured that Police Scotland has deleted records of half a billion numberplates captured under numberplate recognition.

From Scotland on Sunday:

The climbdown comes after a Lib Dem Freedom of Information request last year revealed that 852,507,524 number plate records captured by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras across the country were held in a Police Scotland database, with data available from as far back as 2009. Data retention laws require that any such information is only kept for crimes, while all other data must be deleted. The Lib Dems had expressed concern that the retention of so much information relating to innocent individuals was infringing on people’s civil liberties. The number of records deleted was revealed by the police in response to another Freedom of Information request submitted by the Lib Dems. Information provided by the police showed 547,459,904 number plate records had been disposed of.

Scottish Lib Dem Justice Spokesperson Liam McArthur said:

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LibLink: Tom Brake: The Westminster Attack was an assault on democracy, let it not be an assault on freedom too

Tom Brake wrote for The House magazine about the threats to civil liberties in the wake of the Westminster attacks. He said that the appropriate response to the horror was:

What the attacker sought to do in his rampage was to instil fear and division, erode our democracy, shake confidence in our institutions and rupture our way of life. Our response must be more unity, more democracy, and steadfast humanity in the face of evil. We must always counter hate with love. We will remain open, tolerant and united.

The article was written before Amber Rudd effectively conceded that she had been talking rubbish about encryption, but he highlighted why that was a bad idea and went on to talk about how the sweeping powers the Government had given itself could be absued in the wrong hands:

The bigger issue, of course, is this will not be effective. The 2015 Paris attacks were planned on non-encrypted burner phones, and the attackers were known to the authorities. The issue was the lack of police resources to track potential criminals, not the lack of access to encrypted messages. And drowning our intelligence services in a mountain of irrelevant data is unlikely to help, as the Danes recently discovered.

The Snooper’s Charter was a startling overreach when it was voted through last year, and this would be a horrifying extension of it. Few of us would give the government a key to our house to look through our drawers without a court warrant, and we must be careful to treat our online belongings with the same respect.

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Paddick: Spying on encrypted messages would be draconian and ineffective

The Home Secretary Amber Rudd has demanded that security services be given access to users’ encrypted messages on services like WhatsApp. It’s kind of good that we have someone who actually knows what they are talking about, because they have been an Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, to assess these plans. Brian Paddick is not impressed. He said:

These terrorists want to destroy our freedoms and undermine our democratic society.

By implementing draconian laws that limit our civil liberties, we would playing into their hands.

My understanding is there are ways security services could view the content of suspected terrorists’ encrypted messages and establish who they are communicating with.

Having the power to read everyone’s text messages is neither a proportionate nor an effective response.

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Another civil liberties victory for the Scottish Liberal Democrats

A couple of years ago, the SNP was planning to make this super ID database which made what Labour’s planned ID cards from 2008 look positively timid. They intended allowing 120 public bodies, including the Royal Botanic Gardens and Quality Meat Scotland, access to the NHS Central Register.

Alison McInnes, our then Justice spokesperson was on it straight away, as was Willie Rennie and made such a big fuss that the idea has now firmly been consigned to the dustbin.

Following parliamentary questions from Liam McArthur, our new Justice Spokesperson, the Scottish Government admitted that it had “decided it would not …

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The scariest thing you have never heard of

On 30th December 2016 the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (more commonly known as the Snoopers’ Charter) came into force; suffocating personal privacy and liberty without so much as a whimper from Labour or the SNP.

Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the government has achieved unprecedented surveillance powers over its own citizens and now has the ability to indiscriminately monitor, record, hack and spy on the communications and internet use of everyone in the country.

With the official opposition in disarray and unable (and even in many cases unwilling) to scrutinise the government’s actions and challenge the narrative that state security automatically overrides and supersedes the protection of civil liberties without a second thought, the result has been the slow but steady growth of the state’s industrial-scale espionage on its own citizens and the erosion of the liberty safe-guards put in place by the Liberal Democrats while in government.

While much ink has been spilt on the consequences of this Act – most notably in the LDV articles written by Elliott Motson, Alistair Carmichael and Tim Farron – many consequences have only been seen in isolation. Ironically, legislation designed for a modern digital age becomes the more dangerous when coupled with one of the earliest – A Bill of Attainder.

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Draconian changes proposed to Official Secrets Act

Out of the blue, on Saturday, we learned that The Law Commission has been at work. It proposes changing the Official Secrets Act to cover matters that are about what the government of the day considers to be matters of national economic interest. Anyone in unauthorised possession of material that might be included in the scope of the Act, or who transmits it or publishes could go to jail for up to ten years. There would be no restriction on who can commit the offence,” including hackers, leakers, elected politicians, journalists, and NGOs.

What this boils down to is the ability of government to shut people up. Imagine this; The Daily Boot is passed a paper that says that, as part of trade deal negotiations, HMG will allow US chicken treated with chlorine to be sold in the UK. If the news becomes public the trade talks might be jeopardised. The Boot’s editor either publishes and risks jail or lets the matter quietly drop. Ah, but that’s not good enough. Even being in possession or having had knowledge of the information could make the editor liable to prosecution. The Damoclesian Sword hangs forever over the editor’s neck.

The Liberal Democrat MP for Old Sallop can’t raise the matter in the Commons, as that would mean the member admitting they know what is in the material, thus rendering themselves liable to prosecution.

The Law Commission has published an enormous consultation document called Protection of Official Data.

I put consultation in italics because the Commission claims it has already consulted widely, though this statement is as thinner than an After Eight mint crushed by ten-ten road roller.

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Scottish Lib Dems demand action on retention of police photos of innocent people

If it weren’t for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, the SNP Government would have nobody asking them awkward questions on civil liberties and forcing them to change policy.

And so it continues in 2017. In today’s Scotland on Sunday, Liam McArthur, our Justice Spokesperson continues the work by the much-missed Alison McInnes in demanding action on the Police retaining photos of people they arrest but who are never charged. From The Scotsman:

In the report published in January last year, HMICS warned that there was no statutory framework or legislation in Scotland regulating how the police use or retain photographic images.

While fingerprint and DNA samples are destroyed if criminal proceedings are dropped, mugshots are kept on the police’s “custody software” under a practice which predates the formation of Police Scotland.

Most images are kept for at least six years, but those accused of more serious offences have their mugshot retained for up to 12 years.

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Javid’s oath is nothing but dog whistle displacement activity

With barely a trace of irony, a minister in the Government which has just passed the most illiberal snooping legislation talked about defending freedom in an article in the Sunday Times (£) today. Not only that, but he seems to think that the answer to  any problems harming community cohesion could be resolved by holders of public office swearing an oath committing them to so-called British values of “equality, democracy and the democratic process.”

He spends the first 8 paragraphs of his article having a real go at Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, setting up the scapegoats while using the language of tolerance as a fig leaf in which to wrap the dog whistle.

This is a government, struggling to get a grip on Brexit – trying to distract us by scapegoating an entire community of people, reinforcing the horribly divisive rhetoric of the referendum. Does that sound tolerant to you?

As an aside, the phrase “British values” makes me wince – as if respect for the democratic process or support for freedom of speech was a uniquely British thing that stopped at our borders. You can’t confine a basic human instinct to a tiny little blob on the map. These universal values are exercised every day in every part of the world – and often with great courage and bravery. The women in Saudi who defy the law and drive. The people who marched in places like Myanmar and Teheran for democracy. The people who attend gay pride rallies in places where being gay is punishable by imprisonment or even death. 

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The Home Office is as out of touch as ever…

This week the Psychoactive Substances Act became law. Over at Politics.co.uk, editor Ian Dunt wrote a scathing review of the official Home Office guidance to retailers.

As he says, the guidance seems to be a melting pot of every prejudice you could imagine against young people:

The Home Office clearly envisions a youthful sub-class of drug fiends, unable to stay off the stuff even immediately ahead of purchasing it. Laughing gas has a mild effect which lasts for about a minute, so it’s unlikely the user would be intoxicated on it literally while purchasing more. Perhaps the Home Office doesn’t know this. Or perhaps they assume they are eating all sorts of drugs and are still high off them while going for a laughing gas chaser to finish off the evening. Or maybe they wrote this guidance in the same spirit in which they wrote the law: without due consideration for logic, legal validity or objective reality.

The drug fiend stereotypes go on and on. “Do they have physical symptoms of intoxication such as bad skin, weeping eyes, rash around the nose?” God help you if you’ve got spots or hay fever: the Home Office knows you’re a wrong ‘un.

This reminded me of how, under the previous Labour administration, carrying two mobile phones or ordering a vegetarian meal on a plane would be enough to raise suspicions of you being a terrorist. Helen Duffett wrote about that at the time.:

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Rennie: Only a strong team of Lib Dems can champion our civil liberties

Speaking at the party’s North East Scotland Regional Conference this morning Willie Rennie told members that over the last five years it has been the Liberal Democrats that have been the powerful guarantor of civil liberties in the face of the illiberal SNP, and that will continue in the next Parliament.

This is the latest in a series of strong messages that Willie has been laying out in the last couple of weeks. The party has put a massive emphasis on civil liberties and education (what a surprise for a liberal party) in this Parliament and has an admirable record of persuading the SNP to change policy whether it’s on stop and search, armed police, nursery education or college places. So, Willie is saying we’ll actually use the tax powers the Parliament has to put a penny on income tax to pay for education and that we’ll continue to defend our freedoms. I also liked the quick summary of our values that he did the other day:

I want liberal-minded Yes voters to know they can vote for the Liberal Democrats because Scotland needs strong liberal voices in parliament to stand up for investment in opportunity through education and good health, to guarantee our civil liberties and to protect our environment. We need a strong outward-looking, internationalist, altruistic, tolerant, reformist, pro civil liberties, pro-Europe, pro-environment, pro-business party in Scotland. You don’t get that with anyone else and Yes voters as well as No voters should back us if they want that platform.

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Oates and Scriven show why Britain needs the Liberal Democrats

Jonny Oates on ID cards
The Palace of Westminster is quite disorientating. There’s an escalator that goes from the bright modern Portcullis House into Westminster that I always call the Time Machine because it really feels like you go back 300 years in 30 feet. This afternoon, if you’d wandered into the House of Lords, you might be forgiven for thinking you’d gone to sleep and woken up in 2005, because here were Labour and Tory peers trying to bring back ID cards. And just like 2005 (who remembers Police, not Plastic), it was Liberal Democrat peers cutting their way throughout the authoritarian smog like Mr Muscle on a greasy kitchen worktop.

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Brian Paddick writes… Chairman Mao might have backed Labour’s ID card plans, but Lib Dems won’t

In the House of Lords today, Labour tried to resurrect the National Identity Card scheme with some support from the Conservative benches. The Government Home Office minister countered that it was too expensive and ineffective in that those we would most want to carry an ID card are the least likely to carry them.

Liberal Democrats object to the compulsory carrying of identity cards on principle, as an infringement of the liberty and the right to privacy of those lawfully going about their business but there are other reasons why a national identity scheme should remain dead and buried.

Not one of the tragic deaths or horrific injuries inflicted by terrorists in recent times in the UK could have been prevented had a national identity card scheme been in place.  The identities of the bombers and would-be bombers of the London transport system in 2005 were quickly established. The identities of the murderers of Lee Rigby were never an issue.

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Paddy Ashdown on snoopers’ charter: Politicians in a democracy must guard our freedoms

Paddy Ashdown took part in a Guardian Live event the other night, talking to Andrew Rawnsley in Bristol. The subject of the new Investigatory Powers Bill, son of Snoopers’ Charter, came up. Paddy knows about this kind of stuff. He said:

We charge the intelligence services with keeping us safe, so of course they want the maximum amount of power. But the job of a politician in a democracy is to be jealous about giving away those freedoms, and to do so only when it’s necessary. You have to make judgments as to how much infringement of the liberty of

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Farron: Lib Dems will resist Snoopers’ Charter

GCHQ Bude by Paul WalterIt looks like the Tories’ Snoopers’ Charter to be unveiled this week will be the blinged-up version, with even more sweeping powers than they tried to introduce before. Tim Farron told the Independent that the Liberal Democrats would oppose it just like we did in Government:

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, signalled that he would be prepared to muster his 112-strong bloc of peers to oppose measures which undermined individual liberty. “We would use all parliamentary tools available to us to ensure any proposed legislation is properly scrutinised,” he told The Independent.

“Liberal Democrats will always support proportionate measures to increase our security, but we must not allow cornerstone civil liberties to be swept away. We will wait with interest to see the detail of the draft Bill, as the Tories have long argued for powers that are not targeted and not proportionate. We blocked the ‘snooper’s charter’ in government and would strongly resist any attempt to bring it back.

“It would be a dramatic shift in the relationship between the state and the individual and fundamentally strikes the wrong balance between liberty and security.”

Back in 2012, Nick Clegg almost agreed to this but after interventions, one by angry bloggers who understood the technicalities in a Conference call with a special adviser, he pulled back. Instead, a draft bill was tabled and subjected to scrutiny by a committee made-up of representatives from both Houses of Parliament, including our Julian Huppert. They rejected the plan and you can read their report here. They determined:

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Wilson Doctrine: Carmichael says Lib Dems will demand protection for journalists, lawyers & parliamentarians from state snooping

Liberal Democrat politicians have reacted with alarm to yesterday’s ruling on the Wilson Doctrine The Investigatory Powers Tribunal basically shrugged off Harold Wilson’s declaration in 1966 that MPs’ phones would not be intercepted without him knowing, saying that it had no basis in law.

This comes on top of two Police forces abusing their powers to try to find journalists’ sources. If an MP, or a lawyer, or a journalist is investigating the Government for doing something it shouldn’t, the idea that the Government could snoop on that investigation is alarming.

This is why Liberal Democrats from across the UK have been quick to demand appropriate protections. Home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

This ruling could have a chilling effect on democracy in the UK. MPs, MSPs and other elected representatives must have the ability to talk to their constituents without fear that their private communications are being routinely monitored by intelligence agencies.

It was reported earlier this year that changes in guidelines meant the Wilson Doctrine no longer applied to MSPs. Now it has been confirmed the doctrine never offered democratically-elected representatives at Holyrood any protection at all. The response of the Prime Minister to this risk to freedoms is just plain weak. We need urgent answers from the UK government.

The Liberal Democrats will be demanding journalists’ sources, legal professional privilege and protection of the communications of democratically-elected representatives are all given a strong legal basis and protection in the new Investigatory Powers Bill.

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Rennie tackles Justice Secretary on allegations that Police Scotland spied illegally on journalists

Today’s Sunday Herald reports that Police Scotland has illegally spied on journalists to try to identify their sources, citing the Interception of Communication Commissioner’s Office:

However, IOCCO last month revealed that two unnamed forces had breached the revised Code since March 25.

It said: “Two police forces have acquired communications data to identify the interactions between journalists and their sources in two investigations without obtaining judicial approval.

“These breaches were identified during our inspections. In these cases the normal RIPA process was used and the data was approved by a designated person.”

In one of the cases, a force acquired the data of a newspaper’s suspected source and of a former police employee believed to be acting as an intermediary.

Willie Rennie has been quick to seek answers from the Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson. He wrote:

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Lib Dems Strasburger and McInnes seek answers on whether parliamentarians’ communications have been intercepted

In the House of Lords this week, Paul Strasburger was quick to question the government on whether Parliamentarians’ data was being scooped up by GCHQ in contravention of the 49 year old Wilson Doctrine which prohibits this.

The exchange is as follows:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which methods of communication used by members of either House of Parliament are not presently subject to the Wilson doctrine.

Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen (Con): My Lords, as the noble Lord may be aware, there is an ongoing litigation in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal on the Wilson doctrine. In fact, there is a hearing tomorrow. One of the issues that the tribunal is looking to consider is the scope of the doctrine. Given this ongoing litigation, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at present.

Lord Strasburger (LD): My Lords, David Anderson’s recent report confirmed what we already knew from Edward Snowden—namely, that, every day, GCHQ is hoovering up the private data of millions of innocent citizens without the informed consent of Parliament. Can the Minister explain how the Government manage to comply with the Wilson doctrine by excluding the private data of parliamentarians when they are scooping up everyone else’s indiscriminately?

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Opinion: High Court rules DRIP legislation introduced by Liberal Democrats in government is unlawful

Last year there was widespread criticism from Liberal Democrat members  towards the parliamentary party’s support (with the honourable exception of the four Lib Dem MPs) for emergency DRIP surveillance powers.  A fair number of us warned our parliamentarians that the legislation seemingly did not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.  In addition to the warnings that came from those of us within the party there was an open letter from leading UK internet law academic experts  and widespread criticism from civil liberties groups.

Norman Baker who was then a minister of state at the Home Office minster

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LibLink: Norman Lamb and Julian Huppert: Defeating radicalisation and extremism, a battle we must win

On the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings, Norman Lamb and Julian Huppert looked at what should and should not be done in order to tackle the radicalisation and extremism that leads to such awful attacks. They wrote for Politics Home and outlined first the measures we should not take, because they don’t work and are just wrong in principle:

But the 7/7 bombings also presented an existential threat to the sort of liberal society we want to live in – raising questions that many will have asked again in light of last week’s terrorist attack in Tunisia.

Do we address these threats by giving government the power to snoop indiscriminately on every citizen, and the vast resources needed to sift through all that information?

Do we target “at risk” communities and faith groups with increasing scrutiny, limit their freedom of speech, and intervene aggressively in an attempt to clamp down on potential extremism?

Internationally, is it right to believe can we combat terrorism by bombing some of the most volatile regions in the Middle East, particularly if it may be contrary to international law?

To each of these, as Liberal Democrats our answer must be – emphatically, no.  Firstly, it doesn’t work.  In 2005 the Security Services were already faced with too much information, on too many threats, to see the wood from the trees. Remember that if we tread roughshod over disenfranchised faith communities we will earn ourselves more enemies than friends.  And if we spend the next year bombing Syria all we will have to show for it are craters, innocent casualties, and a rising defence bill.

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Jim Wallace: The Human Rights Act gives us the ability to challenge the state on ordinary day to day issues

Yesterday was Lib Dem Opposition Day in the Lords and we chose two subjects very close to our heart. We’ve already covered the debate led by Paddy on foreign affairs.  Jim Wallace led one on human rights and civil liberties. He outlined how he frustrated he felt as a minister on the wrong side of a human rights judgement but that made him no less committed to the principles of the Act. Here’s his speech in full.

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Opinion: Magna Carta: Civil liberties 800 years on, under a Tory majority government

On Monday, the Magna Carta – the oldest charter in British (and indeed European) history which protects civil liberties – celebrated its 800th anniversary.

At a celebration in Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was sealed by King John in 1215, David Cameron pledged “to safeguard the legacy, the idea the momentous achievements of those barons” who first signed the Great Charter.

That’s quite a bold statement to make, especially considering he’s in the middle of damaging – not safeguarding – such a legacy by repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 (hereon the HRA).

Like the Magna Carta protected civil liberties in the face of the monarchy, so the HRA protects civil liberties in the face of our government. Consequentially, as Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder and Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld suggest in their article in The New Statesman, it’s hypocritical that the Tories should glorify the Magna Carta whilst scolding the HRA.

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Opinion: Sexual Assault and Fear of Sexual Assault: A Civil Liberties Issue

I recently went to the Lake District for a short break. I was walking alone in a relatively remote area with no one much around and when going through a small campsite a man came out and stared persistently as I went past. The thought went through my mind I wonder if he’s going to follow me. He didn’t, but I sat down some yards on and the thought dawned on me that for virtually my entire life I have had to process the risks of sometimes travelling alone, walking in remote places alone and going home late alone. That’s when I decided to write this article for LDV.

When I was at university there was a serial rapist on the loose in Bristol so we were told to ‘be careful’’ Friends at a better university down the road had to deal with a similar scenario. Every once in a while, and certainly too often, we hear of a woman who has disappeared after leaving a nightclub, a scenario that usually ends in tragedy. Those of us old enough may remember the fate of Rachel Nickell some years ago, innocently jogging on Wimbledon Common in broad daylight. This situation represents a basic infringement of women’s human rights. Women are used to making risk assessments all the time, about where it’s safe to go, particularly late at night, by what mode of transport and in what clothes, but why should we have to?

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Alison McInnes finds yet another Police Scotland civil liberties infringement

Police Scotland have been caught uploading custody shots of people who may not ever even be convicted or have even been charged to the national police database and then searching it using facial recognition technology. Over 600,000 photos of almost 335,000 people are involved.

The facial recognition technology can be used to cross-reference images of suspects from crime scenes with images of individuals kept on the database. However, experts have also raised concerns the system could be abused.

There is currently no framework to stipulate the circumstances in which the technology should be used – meaning it could be used to identify people from football matches or political protests. Fishing expeditions such as these could lead to potential wrongful accusations.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes found this out through Freedom of Information requests. She said:

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Opinion: Counter-extremism laws will be anything but

Less than a week into the new government and we are already beginning to see the signs of a Conservative party moving sharply to the right now that the Lib Dem shackles are off.

Announcing proposals for counter-extremism legislation yesterday, Home Secretary Theresa May said that she would implement ‘banning orders for groups’ who are ‘actively trying to promote hatred ‘ and ‘undermine British values’. Prime Minister David Cameron added that we have been a ‘passively tolerant society for too long’.

A similar piece of legislation was proposed 3 times during the coalition but was rejected every time. Lib Dem MP Tom Brake today said that they were blocked because they were ‘ill thought through, illiberal and will not tackle the problem they are supposed to’.

For starters, the proposal is flawed in principle. It is undoubtedly the case that these proposals undermine the key British value of freedom of speech. Whilst the Lib Dems hugely disagree with the views of radical fundamentalists like Anjem Choudhry, we will always defend their right to say it. That is a fundamental principle of democracy. If you partially stop freedom of speech, as these proposals do, you set a very dangerous precedent which can border on censorship and risks allowing a government to silence any voice of which it does not approve.

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Nick Clegg on the Digital Rights Bill

Today’s campaign theme has been the Digital Rights Bill that the party wants to introduce to protect people’s rights against misuse of their data and protect them from unwarranted intrusion by the state. The Bill would introduce:

Prison sentences for companies conducting large-scale data theft and illegally selling on personal data;

Beefed up powers for the Information Commissioner to fine and enforce disciplinary action on government bodies if they breach data protection laws;

Legal rights to compensation for consumers when companies make people sign up online to deliberately misleading and illegible terms & conditions;

Code of Practice for online services who would by law have to correct information about members of the public where it is inaccurate or defamatory;

Enshrining in law the responsibility of government to defend the free press, including the rights of journalists and citizen journalists to express their views freely online;

Prevent government from watering down cyber-security and encryption measures used by British business.

Nick Clegg talked about why it is important

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Are you feeling like you need some good old fashioned civil liberties talk in this election?

You need look no further than Ben Mathis, Lib Dem candidate for Hackney South who looks at the constituency’s liberal values and wonders why it “settles for social conservatism in a red bow.” Enjoy.

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Davey and Cable defend free speech at universities from Tory attack

Vince Cable Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterWe know that during the passage of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, Liberal Democrat peers Sal Brinton and Margaret Sharp tried to amend the bill to strengthen the duty on universities to preserve freedom of speech. Senior Tories couldn’t see why that was so important, sadly.

The Observer reports that Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers, especially Vince Cable, disagree about the planned guidance to be issued to universities about what they can and can’t allow on campus.

In the Sunday

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Things to do in your lunch hour: Last chance to respond to Scottish Government’s ID Database consultation

A couple of weeks ago, James Baker told us why the proposals in Scotland to use the NHS identity database and use it effectively as a surveillance tool was wrong and dangerous:

One of the stated aims of the changes proposed is that it would make it easier to ‘trace people’, the examples given are tracing missing children or ‘health tourists’. This is a giveaway as to the increased surveillance capabilities the scheme would create. If it’s able to trace children through civic transactions recorded on the system then it will be able to trace political campaigners, people’s whose library books are overdue, potentially anyone who comes to the attention of the authorities.

The consultation is alarmingly lacking in detail as to how the new database system would work, and what safeguards would be put in place.  If implemented as suggested it would almost certainly raise the possibility of a legal challenge over the breach of people’s right to privacy, and additional  compliance issues with data protection laws. At the very least such a major change in people’s relationship to the state  should be the subject of a public debate, not rushed through by officials using changes in obscure regulations. If these changes are to occur they need to be done through the use of primary legislation not a change in regulations. This seems a request it would seem hard for any reasonable Scottish Parliamentarian to deny.

The Scottish Government is consulting on this and today is your last chance to make your views known. You can do so here. It is worth a few minutes of your time to ask the Scottish Government to think twice before introducing such a step.

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  • User AvatarJennie 21st May - 8:05am
    Crikey, that Rob Parsons post is depressing
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    Still waiting for action on rights to leave for our own candidates!
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    I'll be there tomorrow. Back to the place I grew up and joined the Young Liberals 49 years ago!
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    I thought it interesting that he was apparently recommended by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the role of wedding preacher.
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    I never noticed the charm - perhaps I wasn’t worth the effort. He did once tell me the mnemonic he used to remember my name....
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    Ah, I see, Michael 1, you are putting the student fees in the context of the proposed lifetime learning account of perhaps £30,000 for every...