Law and Order under New Labour

A ‘Comment’ on my entry about David Blunkett’s latest appalling proposals by Tony Hatfield seems to me worth a post here in its own right – and I hope he’ll also put it on his own excellent (and beautifully illustrated) website at Tony is a retired solicitor with extensive experience in criminal law; he knows whereof he speaks. As he says, we are sleep-walking into a more illiberally governed society than there has been here for 150 years. I pointed out in an interview today for BBC1 television news (tiny snippets of which, possibly including a shot of my main website on my computer screen!, may or may not be broadcast this evening, 11 August, at 6 pm BST), that the right not to be detained in this country without a fair trial goes back to Magna Carta, and is confirmed in the European Human Rights Convention of which Britain was a principal co-author, yet our Labour government has abrogated it, and its action in doing so has just today been endorsed by the Court of Appeal, following its earlier endorsement by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. Shame on them!

Here’s Tony Hatfield:

>>I cannot disagree with anything written here, Brian. But as I came to your last words, I asked myself, "Do enough people care?â€?. I mean really care enough to make sure these Draconian measures are not, as you put it, "smuggledâ€? onto the statute book? I’m afraid my confidence level is not much above absolute zero. The examples of statutory "smugglingâ€? within the criminal law, in my professional career alone, are terrifying. No longer does an arrested person have an untrammelled right to say nothing when questioned in the police station. No longer does an accused person have the right to keep his defence to himself until trial. In cases of rape and now other sexual offences, a defendant facing, on conviction, many uncomfortable years in jail, finds it increasingly difficult to challenge the complainant’s sexual history. The chances of miscarriages in this area alone increase as juries are now being asked to believe either the complainant or the defendant. No need for corroboration! Thousands of kids are being criminalised by the use of the powers contained in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The civil law provisions in the Act allow the police use second-hand hearsay evidence to obtain Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. The government has not exhausted this crafty procedure; a civil order followed by criminal proceedings, with substantial periods of custody for breach. Five years in the case of an ASBO. I shudder to think what the Labour Party’s manifesto for the next election will contain. Law’n’Order, we are told, will be at its heart. I wonder if anyone will really mind, if amongst its provisions are the implanting, under the skin, of a chip to which details can be added during the lifetime if the citizen. Or the compulsory taking of DNA to complete the gaps in present database, which now contains a miserable collection of those arrested or reported for any criminal offence.And yes, Number 51, the national database behind the ID card! A few years ago the limits to the digital storage of information made these ideas fanciful. Today, the technologies are increasing exponentially whilst the costs of storage are moving with equal speed in the opposite direction. We are now a nation of involuntary Prozac users who find "Big Brotherâ€? an entertainment.< < Thanks for that, Tony. Brian

6 Responses

  1. When I wrote
    “The government has not exhausted this crafty procedure; a civil order followed by criminal proceedings, with substantial periods of custody for breach. Five years in the case of an ASBO.�
    I was almost sure that the Home Office had already played this one again. I’ve now been able to find chapter and verse. They have sharpened their teeth.
    It is contained in Section 5 of the Domestic Violence and Victims Bill introduced in the House of Lords this at, I think, the turn of the year.

    5A Restraining orders on acquittal
    (1) A court before which a person (“the defendant�) is acquitted of an offence may, if it considers it necessary to do so to protect a person from harassment by the defendant, make an order prohibiting the defendant from doing anything described in the order.
    (2) In proceedings under this section both the prosecution and the defence may lead, as further evidence, any evidence that would be admissible in proceedings for an injunction under section 3(civil procedure-AEH)

    The maximum penalty for breach of an order-five years.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    From Tony’s tory twin David. All very interesting but I assume you all voted for that blogger Blair and are now all surprised that your government has turned into the most illiberal that I can recall.You simpletons! Thatcher Howard and all would never have introduced these measures Tone describes . Most if not all left of centre governments end up seeking to control their “citizens” because they realise that the measures they wish to impose will never be accepted by the majority without the removal of basic rights .Shame on you for voting for them!Any-one who says we are sleep-walking neither understands history or speeks for me!

  4. Brian says:

    How nice to hear from a Tory, member of an endangered species! Difficult, though, to follow the argument that we who voted for Blair (or at any rate for his party’s candidates) must now be regretting our folly and contemplating how much more liberal a government we would now be enjoying if only Michael Howard were in Number 10 — can you really be talking about the same Michael Howard, who was even more bellicose over Iraq than Blair, who has noisily supported every piece of illiberal legislation wished on us by Blunkett, and is now seeking to outflank Blunkett and Blair on the far right of the political spectrum, promising that if elected his government will build even more prisons and end the early release scheme, contrary to the publicly expressed views of the heads of the police and prisons services and just about every other organisation concerned with the prevention of crime? Do you think that the steady decline in crime in Britain in the past decade would have continued under a Howard government? Would a Howard government have reversed the steady erosion of Britain’s aid programme and more than doubled it, with more to come? Would they have given us a minimum wage or started on the eradication of child poverty? Presided over years of steady economic growth and stability while most of our EU partners are floundering? Fat chance!

    Far from being ashamed of having voted Labour at the last two elections (and at every election before them, incidentally), I have to face the fact that I shall do it again at the next, despite my strong feelings about Blair, Blunkett, Straw and (some of) the rest. We have to try to act in a way that will have the least harmful consequences, and there can’t be any serious doubt that a vote for any other party but Labour, or even an abstention, will contribute to the heightened risk of a Conservative government. Now if that were to happen, I really would be ashamed of having helped to allow it to happen. But it certainly won’t give me any joy to vote for a party that has been so comprehensively hijacked by its present leader. To adapt Churchill’s famous comment on democracy, Labour under Blair is terrible: it’s just that anything else would be incomparably worse.

    Shame is relative!


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  6. Anonymous says:

    Foreign aid, child poverty, crime reduction and economic growth. A large part of the foreign budget is directed by the EU to whom for what purpose we don’t know. Child poverty – the gap between rich and poor is growing.Crime reduction -what figures are you relying on?Crime Survey or the recorded crimes and econmic growth- the stock exchange is the worst performing exchange since 1997 the only growth is in the public sector.Tell all those who have lost their job in manufacturing about growth.You suggest that growth, reduction in child poverty and crime and increasing aid is a price worth paying to keep those nasty Tories out and stripping us of our fundamental rights.Unhappily you cannot use the word Tory without prefixing it by either right wing extreme or preferably both. You may be wrong. See K.Clark incidentally for whom I like many others and most of the MPs voted