Tag Archives: civil liberties

LibLink: Christine Jardine: A sinister sign our human rights are in peril?

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine described something worrying that took place while she took part in a protest for Hong Kong democracy in Edinburgh:

A drone. Hovering a couple of feet above the heads of the group was a small grey machine, the single eye of its mounted camera recording the event and everyone there.

This was, it is important to stress, a Covid-compliant, socially distanced, perfectly legal outdoor gathering of a small number of people in Edinburgh’s High Street. Unremarkable even in these times, save for one thing. It was about the threat to democracy in Hong Kong

She asks if we take our civil liberties for granted:

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Our public highways are under threat

As restrictions are gradually eased, it is heartening to see our public spaces once again being filled with shoppers, cafe-goers and those who just want to make the most of being able to socialise freely again. This should also prompt us to have a serious look at the value we place on our public spaces, for if we do not act soon, we could lose them without realising until it is too late.

A small but growing number of commentators and activists are drawing our attention to increased use of pseudo-public spaces – that is, those which to all intents and purposes appear to be public spaces but are in fact privately managed and owned. Vast swathes of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham (as well as many more) are under private ownership, but this is no longer an issue confined to big cities. Devastated by years of austerity, councils have been selling off land at alarming rates to private corporations and as a busker, this is more obvious to me than most. With the number of busking pitches available on genuinely public land reducing, it is now very difficult to make a living without busking on publicly accessible private land. It is not just in the large metropolises – I have faced attempts to move me on in Didcot, Stourbridge, Redditch and countless others. They will never try to argue that I am causing any genuine problems – simply that ‘management don’t allow it’.

I will almost always stand my ground, pointing out that, not only does a specific section of public highways law allow for privately owned land to act as a de jure public highway in many instances, but also that with trespass being a civil offence, there needs to be some evidence of harm being caused in order to compel me to leave. Where there is no material harm, I see no reason to leave. Usually, the security guards hired by these private corporations give up and let me continue. They’ve even, on one occasion, returned to buy a CD from me. But if they dig in, problems can occur, which has led to me being arrested for ‘breach of the peace’ in 3 different locations. In all of these instances, the police have admitted that I was not actually breaching the peace, nor did they have any evidence that I was likely to. But for a breach of the peace arrest, none of this is actually required. All that is required is for the police officer to believe that a breach of the peace may occur. Note that it is not legally relevant who will be causing that breach. The last time this happened, officers in Birmingham accepted my argument that they were effectively arresting me because, if I didn’t leave, the security guards might initiate a physical altercation.

Two new proposed laws threaten to escalate this to a worrying extent. One is Priti Patel’s much-publicised policing bill, which has rightly been the subject of mass protests. For me, it is almost laughable to see her argue that existing powers regarding Public Order are not strong enough, given my experiences of being arrested under the very laws that apparently do not give the police enough power.

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A public interest defence is an essential part of Official Secrets Act reform

The Queen’s Speech includes plans to reform the Official Secrets Acts. The last of these was passed in 1989, before the dawn of the internet; the first in 1911 – most of the carrier pigeons that served in the First World War had not even been born.

The acts are antiquated and the Counter-State Threats Bill is intended to drag the way we tackle hostile activity from states and new types of actor kicking and screaming into the 21st century. There will be plenty in this bill to keep Liberal Democrats busy in the coming months, not least what Number 10 has briefed The Sun will be “sweeping powers to jail Russian and Chinese spies”.

But my concern is what appears to be a likely omission from the bill. The Queen’s Speech makes no reference to the introduction of a statutory public interest defence. This would create a safety net for people who believe that, for the greater good, they must disclose sensitive information covered by the acts.

Public servants should not, for example, fear jail is inevitable if they are exposing illegalities committed at the top of government. They need to know they can make a public interest defence, albeit one that would later be tested rigorously by a jury. Simply dumping a load of state secrets on the internet would plainly fail that test.

By putting the defence on a statutory footing, civil servants, journalists and others would not have to rely on the creativity of lawyers and juries ignoring the directions of the judge. Katharine Gun and Clive Ponting, the Iraq and Falklands War whistleblowers respectively, escaped jail because of those factors. Others might not be so lucky, while the likes of Sarah Tisdall (the Greenham Common case) did not even have the option of at least testing this defence.

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Lib Dem passion for civil liberties shines through in right to protest debate

Conference overwhelmingly backed the right to protest today in a passionate debate which showed the party at its best. It’s so important given that the Official Opposition’s first instinct was to abstain on this draconian legislation and had to be shamed into opposing it.

We called on the Government to drop the proposals set out in the Police, Sentencing and Courts Bill and reaffirmed our support for the Human Rights Act.

You can read the motion here.

I’ve done a Twitter thread summarising the main points that were made in the debate:

After the debate, Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

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Munira Wilson: Government has duty to facilitate safe protest

I’m feeling frustrated, to be honest, that Reclaim these Streets vigils over the country have been cancelled after Police made clear to organisers that they could be hit with heavy fines. The events have now mostly been moved online and I’ll be taking part at 6pm tonight, on my doorstep with a candle to remember Sarah Everard and the other women killed by men and to assert the right of women and girls to go about their business in safety – and, crucially, without the fear that it is clear we all experience.

Now I’m about as Covid-cautious as you could possibly get. I’ve barely been out in a year. But I’m also a liberal and my instinctive reaction is that our right to protest is a fundamental civil liberties. In these times, you need to be responsible and protest in a Covid secure way, but the right to stand up and be counted for a cause you believe in is vital.

In recent days, several Liberal Democrats have been talking more about civil liberties.

I’m glad to see that Munira Wilson, our MP for Twickenham and health spokesperson, has made some robust comments on the vigil bans:

Women and girls should be able to walk down our streets safely and without fear. I completely understand why people feel moved to attend vigils or protest about this. It is deeply disappointing that the Metropolitan Police have refused to help make it happen.
“No one wants to see crowds of people at a time when social distancing is so important to save lives. But Reclaim These Streets is committed to organising Covid-safe vigils and the High Court made it clear that such an event can be lawful.
“The Government has a duty to facilitate safe protests. The way the Government has curtailed protest rights and is trying to do so even after we emerge from the pandemic is deeply concerning. Liberal Democrats will always defend the right to protest.”
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20 October 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats secure Government commitment to publish test and trace agreement with police
  • Government face first defeat in the Lords over Internal Market Bill

Liberal Democrats secure Government commitment to publish test and trace agreement with police

Today, Liberal Democrat Peer Paul Scriven has secured a commitment from Health Minister Lord Bethell to publish the agreement between the Government and police chiefs over the decision to share test and trace data.

This follows the Health Secretary’s refusal to make the Memorandum of Understanding public when Liberal Democrat Health and Care Spokesperson Munira Wilson asked him to just yesterday.

Following the exchange, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven said:

An effective test, trace and isolate system to keep people safe will only work if the public have faith in it and this means the Government must be open and honest about how it uses people’s data.

It is absolutely crucial that the Government publishes its Memorandum of Understanding with police chiefs on sharing of Test and Trace data in full, otherwise they risk further undermining public trust in the system and discouraging people from getting tested.

I’m glad to have secured this commitment from the Minister, but he must now make sure the document is published for public scrutiny as soon as possible. The Liberal Democrats are clear that transparency over the use of personal data is essential to build public confidence in Test and Trace.

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15 October 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats: London lockdown further evidence Govt have lost control
  • Liberal Democrats vote against “dangerous” Government crimes Bill

Liberal Democrats: London lockdown further evidence Govt have lost control

Responding to reports that London will face Tier 2 Covid restrictions from Saturday, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

The Government have completely lost control of coronavirus across vast swathes of the country, and the situation in London is looking very difficult.

In the north of England, and now in London, the sacrifices of millions of people have been squandered by this Government. Because of Boris Johnson’s failure to ensure our test, trace and isolate system worked, millions of people will have to make those sacrifices again.

We need to understand the science behind the tier system immediately, otherwise there will be fears that this fresh wave of restrictions will do very little to help stop the spread of the virus. We need a circuit-breaker introduced now, on the condition that government overhaul the failing test and trace system – otherwise restrictions will need to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

The government must do much more to protect jobs and livelihoods and keep people safe.

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Munira Wilson gets another PMQ – and calls for removal of “draconian” Coronavirus law

Some MPs never get to ask the Prime Minister a question at the most hotly contested parliamentary event of any week.

Munira Wilson has been an MP for just 9 months, and has had two opportunities in the path month to ask a question at PMQs.

This week she asked him to work cross-party to get a consensus on the laws and powers around Coronavirus, calling the current measures “draconian.”

His response was as dismissive as you would expect:

We are making sure that everybody in our society gets all the protections they need. I am aware of the easements in the Care Act 2014 that the hon. Lady refers to. It was necessary to put them in temporarily, and we now need to make sure we give everybody the protection that they need. That is what this Government will do.

And here’s a reminder of Munira’s debut at PMQs last month when she took Boris Johnson to task over his government legislating to break international law.

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Civil Liberties and Ending the Lockdown

In the weeks ahead, as the government seeks to loosen the lockdown while containing the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely to introduce measures that in ordinary times would constitute serious violations of our civil liberties. For example, the government is likely to introduce extensive COVID-19 testing, enforce quarantine for those who test positive and compulsory trace, everyone; they have come into contact with.

As Liberals, a fundamental test we apply to any state action that restricts civil liberties is the one set out by John Stuart Mill: a person should be free to behave as they choose as long as they do not infringe the freedoms of others. The COVID-19 pandemic is a situation where civil liberties can, in principle, legitimately be restricted because if a person spreads COVID-19, they clearly infringe the freedoms of others.

However, in practice, great care must be taken that our civil liberties are restricted to the smallest possible extent.
It is not yet clear exactly what the government intends to introduce. But there are some key issues that we should consider now, so we can scrutinise whatever measures the government proposes.

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The noble principle of policing by consent

In the UK there exists a principle, harking back to the days of Sir Robert Peel. This long held tradition and principle is called policing by consent. This is essentially the idea that police legitimacy is based on the consent of those it polices. This vital bond, between citizen and state is one that should be held with the upmost regard. When our nation is in crisis, as it arguably is now, the rule of law becomes more, not less, important. This vital principle has almost passed unnoticed in recent weeks as the UK government has brought in strict legislation to help mitigate Covid-19.

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The Party of Human Rights

Much has been made of the repurposing of the Liberal Democrats in the aftermath of December’s General Election.  Enter the Orange Bookers, the social liberals and the FBPE Europhiles all of whom are beginning to set out the course they feel the party should embark on as it looks to the future.

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Remembering Peterloo and the struggle for liberal democracy

Liberalism has a long and complex history. Sometimes that history has been bloody. This weekend there is a range of events happening in Manchester to mark the 200 year anniversary of one such episode in liberal history, the Peterloo massacre. This was when a large gathering of tens of thousands of people calling for political reform in St Peter’s Field in Manchester on 16th August 1819 was forcibly charged by soldiers on horseback. This resulted in 18 people being killed and hundreds being injured. The name of the massacre aimed to mock the British victory at Waterloo that had happened four years earlier.

Peterloo is an important reminder that we cannot take liberalism and democracy for granted. Our modern political rights and freedoms had to be fought for and even at times face authorities prepared to use lethal force in order to suppress democratic sentiments. 200 years on, liberal democracy is still a luxury that many countries and parts of the world do not have. From China to Syria, from Russia to Zimbabwe and from Saudi Arabia to North Korea, activists the world over are to this day struggling, fighting and even dying for the political rights and freedoms that we have in Britain in 2019.

Peterloo is important for liberals, but it is also important to socialists and progressives of all kinds. We liberals must be unafraid to defend our history. We must not abandon radical moments of British liberal history to socialists and extreme leftists. The political philosophy of the radical liberal thinker, Thomas Paine, helped to inspire the protesters at Peterloo. Peterloo was about liberty, freedom from oppression and people’s political rights. In short, it was about political reform. All of these things form the core tenets of liberalism. 

In 1819, only 2% of the population could vote (mostly the landed gentry) and working people in cities like Manchester lived in industrial levels of poverty and squalor. Both of these issues would be remedied by Liberals over the century that followed. The Great Reform Act of the Whig Prime Minister, Earl Grey in 1832 swept away the Tory rotten boroughs. William Gladstone gave the vote to millions of agricultural workers in 1885 and under the government of David Lloyd George in 1918, universal male suffrage was achieved, as well as the first voting rights for women. In regard to the industrial poverty, Liberals helped to abolish the dreaded protectionist Corn Laws, advanced the rights of workers (including legalising trade unions and legitimising collective bargaining) and created the welfare state.

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11 June 2019 – today’s press releases

Regular readers may wonder where this feature disappeared to over the past week or so. The answer, North Macedonia and Georgia, and fascinating both countries were too. But there’s always a point where you have to come home…

Davey: MI5 revelations “a shocking breach of civil liberties”

Responding to today’s High Court hearing over MI5’s collection and storage of bulk data, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

These revelations represent a shocking breach of civil liberties by one of the agencies tasked with safeguarding them.

The Liberal Democrats have consistently opposed giving MI5 powers to collect bulk communications data,

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20 February 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Dishonest of PM to say technical education is a priority
  • Extension of no-fly zone will not prevent future drone chaos
  • Radical changes are afoot in UK politics – Cable
  • Davey: Sajid Javid has big questions to answer on Shamima Begum decision
  • Lib Dems indicate hazards for driving abroad after Brexit

Lib Dems: Dishonest of PM to say technical education is a priority

The Association of Colleges has warned that there is a “real risk to the long-term economic prosperity of the UK” if the Government’s flagship ‘T-Level’ policy is not implemented correctly.

T-Levels, which are due to be introduced in September 2020 will be equivalent …

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The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill reaches the Lords…

Parliament returned to Westminster on Tuesday after the conference recess, and the Lords was immediately presented with one of those challenges it so often rises to, another anti-terrorism Bill, the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which received its Second Reading.

From the Liberal Democrat benches, Jonathan Marks outlined the four key tests against which the proposals would be judged;

First, what is the purpose of the measure and what is the mischief it seeks to address? Secondly, is the measure necessary to achieve that purpose? Thirdly, is the measure a proportionate response to the mischief, having regard to the restrictions on liberty

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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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 6 Comments

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

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 4 Comments
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