first published in 2008
”A strong commitment to civil liberties, once considered a defining British characteristic, has weakened dramatically over the past 20 years, the survey found ”
(Telegraph.co.uk 1:44AM GMT 24/01/2007)
National security is the first duty of government but we are also committed to reversing the substantial erosion of civil liberties.
As someone who was born into a service family, and who then went onto to serve in the Forces, with time spent in various areas of the world, I feel that the current debate and result is an insult to the British population.
The Government and its agents managed, albeit over a twenty year period, to contain and finally achieve a workable result for all of the people of Northern Ireland without resulting in a 42-day detainment. Indeed, all parties did agree that detainment without due process is counterproductive to the well being of the British people.
Why then have we now resorted to a further dilution of our civil liberties’ with the amendment to Habeas Corpus?
”The Habeas Corpus Act passed by Parliament in 1679 guaranteed that a person detained by the authorities would have to be brought before a court of law so that the legality of the detention may be examined. In times of social unrest, Parliament had the power to suspend Habeas Corpus. William Pitt did this in May 1793 during the war with France. Parliamentary reformers such as Thomas Hardy and John Thelwall were imprisoned as a result of this action ”
Loss of liberty and rights since 1997; a full list of these losses are contained on the Open Democracy Network and further information is also on the Liberty website.
This change in the law cannot be seen in isolation. Various governments have been eroding our rights and because it has been slow, and in a lot of cases, the changes have been slid through on the back of other innocuous legislation most people have not noticed what has been happening.
A lot of people will say that if you are doing nothing wrong then it won’t matter’, however a clear identification of the misuse of legislation was highlighted in May this year when it came to light that local councils through middle managers are able to authorise surveillance of people suspected of petty offences using powers designed to prevent crime and terrorism.
This to my mind is a clear misuse of the legislation involved, and signals that the government (both central and local) have no moral compass and will use any means to achieve their ends.
I regret the fact we as a people have lost sight of our rights and allowed ourselves to be blinded by very poor rhetoric and people who prey on fears, which may be slightly justified but not to the extent that we are being told, as indicated by the Head of MI5, Jonathan Evans.