Police State UK: The Rights You Didn’t Know You’d Lost

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Recent decades have seen a dramatic curtailing of hard won civil liberties. These restrictions have been inadvertently cushioned by the expansion of the internet and the ability to exercise some of these rights by proxy on the web. Today we look at the scale of the civil liberties confiscations.

What are Civil Liberties Anyway?

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“Civil liberties is another name for the political freedoms that we must have available to us all if it to be true to say of us that we live in a society that adheres to the principle of representative, or democratic, government.” ~ Professor Conor Gearty

These liberties can loosely be described as the right to vote, the right to life, the prohibition of torture, security of the person, the right to personal liberty and due process of law, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

In the UK they were developed through the English Charter of Liberties which extended rights to the nobility and church officials from 1100AD.  Between 1213 and 1215AD groups from across England came together to draft the Magna Carta which extended a fuller group of protections and rights out to further groups.  The 18th and 19th centuries saw workers movements develop to enshrine labour conditions and the rights to collective bargaining through unions and the right to strike.  The first and second world wars motivated a final revolution in civil liberties including rights to healthcare, education, equal opportunities in the workplace and so on.  In 1998, New Labour signed the European Convention on Human Rights into British Law with the Human Rights Act.  This meant that there was legal underpinning to this bill of rights, which enshrined our civil liberties.

But before and since 1998, these rights have been eroded at a terrifying pace, particularly compared with the glacial rate at which they developed in the first place.

The ability to express our thoughts in blogs and rally in protest by hashtag may have numbed us to the reality of a bonfire of our liberties.  We’ve been tweeting while Rome burned.

Personal Liberty and Due Process before the Law

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Since 1649 and the passing of the Habeas Corpus Act, citizens have been protected from false and arbitrary imprisonment and restriction of their personal liberty by the presumption of innocence until proof of their guilt is established by a jury of their peers in an independent court.  Yet successive governments have passed legislation which seriously undermines this principle, and allows the state and its police force to restrict liberty and confine citizens without interference by the courts.

Detention without Charge

Prior to 1984, a person could not be held by police for longer than 24 hours without a criminal charge being made against them.  The Thatcher government extended this to four days.  New Labour extended this first to seven days, then to 14 days, and finally sought the power to detain citizens without charge for up to 90 days, at the request of the police.  Whilst the Blair government was defeated on 90 days, the period was doubled nevertheless to 28 day.  The Coalition allowed this legislation to expire in 2011, returning the period to 14 days, only to apply for permission to extend to 28 days in the same year.

Meanwhile, the Anti Terrorism and Security Act 2001 allowed for indefinite detention of non British citizens suspected of committing terrorist acts, where there was not enough evidence to proceed to a court of law.

Unlawful Imprisonment

The Control Orders passed in the Terrorism Act 2006 meant anybody suspected of terrorist related activities by the Home Secretary, but without any kind of trial, can be electronically tagged, monitored, be restricted from making phone calls, using the internet, be banned from certain kinds of work, can be restricted from going certain places, have one’s passport revoked and be under a duty to report to the police.

The current government did not extend the life of Control Orders, but replaced them with TPIMS.  This saw two improvements, a two year time limit and approval of a judge required.  However, a recent review of TPIMS reported that the burden of proof required to administer such an order was too low and that the extreme restrictions were neither necessary nor working.

Secret Courts

The 700 year old UK tradition of open justice has been withering on the vine with successive legislation since 1997 which allowed ‘Closed Material Proceedings’ or Secret Courts into the Justice system.  First introduced in 1997 for immigration trials, they were later used for Control Order and TPIM related charges.  Yet, in a stunning move this month, the Coalition government and parliament approved legislation to apply Secret Courts in civil cases.  Henceforth, if a citizen takes the British government or its officials to court in cases of torture, rendition, or a whole host of other reasons, the government is able to present evidence to the judge which the claimant, defendant, media and public will never be privy to.  It will allow the government to resist due scrutiny for its role in torture, rendition and other crimes. The Rev Nicholas Mercer, a lieutenant colonel who was the army’s most senior lawyer during the last Iraq war, told the Daily Mail:

“The justice and security bill has one principal aim and that is to cover up UK complicity in rendition and torture. The bill is an affront to the open justice on which this country rightly prides itself and, above all, it is an affront to human dignity.”

Freedom of Expression and Assembly

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Perhaps the most readily noticeable restrictions on our liberties to those engaged in campaign and protest, has been in the arena of Freedom of Expression and Assembly.  The rise in so called ‘anti-terror’ legislation throughout the period of the New Labour government has had a massive impact on our ability to organise sizable demonstrations, marches and actions without the threat of increasing militarised police force.

Right to Protest

Thatcher’s Public Order Act 1986 sought to prevent the effectiveness of public protest (such as the Miners Strike) by making it law that in order to be lawful, protest organisers had to give police six days advance notice of their action.  Since this time, successive governments have used upgrades to the Public Order Act to undermine the right to peaceful protest.

The Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 granted a number of powers to police and restrictions on protesters.

In response to the protest of Brian Haw who spoke to parliament from Parliament Square for several years as a protest against the crimes of the Iraq War, the Act applied special restrictions on protest within a designated area of 1km of any point of Parliament Square. Basically, it is now almost impossible to protest outside our parliament without being arrested.

The Act created a new offence of trespassing on a designated site. The site can be Crown Land, land that belongs to the monarch or heir to the throne or land a secretary of state believes is appropriate for designation in the interests of national security.

The Act also made all offences arrestable. Previously a police officer had to determine whether he suspected a person of committing a non-arrestable, arrestable or serious arrestable offence. The powers available flowed from that determination.

There has also been a gradual militarisation of the police force which has been armed with ever escalating toolkit of measures and devices to quell dissent in the streets. These methods involve:

Kettling  – you can see an example here.

Snatch & Grab Arrests – Groups of police form a moving corridor into the protest, the front officers of which grab protesters at random.   These arrests can also be made at police lines outside a kettle, or by plain clothes police in advance of protests (arrest occurs at 25 seconds in).

Agent Provocateurs and Violence – This was witnessed at the 2010 student protests where agent provocateurs were filmed running into the crowds, pushing , pulling and kicking student protesters in order to generate violent conditions.  One student, Alfie Meadows ended up in hospital requiring brain surgery after a police officer beat him with a baton.  .  Instead of the police officer facing the courts, Alfie was charged with violent disorder.  He was finally acquitted just this month by a jury who agreed he was defending himself and other protesters.

Martial Law & Emergency Powers

Since the Bill of Rights Act 1689, it has been illegal for the UK government to dispatch the armed forces to British streets during peace time without the consent of parliament.  For hundreds of years we have lived under an agreement that citizens dissenting the government faced police, not the armed forces.  The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 ended this tradition.  The Act means that a range of emergency powers can be applied by approval of The Queen (the Government) which would suspend the Bill of Rights 1689, Habeas Corpus, the Parliament Act 1911 (which restricts a parliament to five year terms) and others for a period of up to 21 days at a time.

The Surveillance State

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The exponential rise in surveillance permitted by law in the UK makes astounding reading.  Until 1986 there were severe restrictions on the police and state ability to surveil its citizens; phone tapping and the interception of private communications were inadmissible in courts and heavily penalised.  However, since 1986, an altogether different approach has been adopted.

The Thatcher governments Interception of Communications Act 1985 gave permission for phone tapping. These permissions and other communication interception measures were approved in 1994 and 1997.  However, the era of New Labour saw a massive roll out in surveillance under the guise of the war on terror.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 allowed the government full surveillance powers over all kinds of communications. The acts main provisions allow five new categories of surveillance from bugging of phones to spying and intercepting of communications.  It allows the Home Secretary to issue an interception warrant to examine the contents of letters or communications on various grounds including in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.  It also prevents the existence of interception warrants, and any and all data collected with them from being revealed in court.

It allows the police, intelligence services, HM Revenue and Customs (and several hundred more public bodies, including local authorities and a wide range of regulators) to demand telephone, internet and postal service providers to hand over detailed communications records for individual users. This can include name and address, phone calls made and received, source and destination of emails, internet browsing information and mobile phone positioning data that records user’s location. These powers are self-authorised by the body concerned, with no external or judicial oversight.

These powers have been extensively overused by police, councils and other enforcement agencies. It has rightly been deemed as a ‘snooper’s charter’.  The current rate is 30 warrants being issued a week. In the 15 months from July 2005 to October 2006, 2407 warrants were issued.  Some of the most egregious cases of misuse include: a council in Dorset putting three children and their parents under surveillance to check they were in the catchment area for the school they had applied to. The council has directly surveilled the family 21 times; other councils have launched undercover operations on dog fouling and fly tipping.

There has also been a rise in CCTV operations, or the filming of people in public spaces.  Britain has gone from zero to over 4 million CCTV cameras in recent decades.  The country has a higher number of cameras than China despite being a small fraction of the size. Cameras are also increasingly hidden and disguised as light fittings, plant pots and other innocuous items in our urban landscape. But surely if the aim was to prevent crime, the cameras would be clearly visible?

Despite all this surveillance, there is less than one arrest per day as a result of CCTV footage.  This corroborates the arguments of the arguments of those who suggest these cameras have more to do with state surveillance than public safety.

Knowledge is Power

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As a result of these infringements, more and more people are being arrested and put through the court process for simply exercising their dissent. Recent notable cases include the convictions of Critical Mass for cycling on the evening of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, and Bethan Tichbourne who was arrested, convicted, receiving both a criminal record and a fine under Public Order laws for shouting ‘Cameron has blood on his hands’ while the Prime Minister turned on the Christmas lights in her town.  It is time to realise that internet freedom is not enough and is itself in peril.  We ignore the continued erosion of our rights at our peril.  With the Conservative Party promising to abolish the Human Rights Act if it wins the next election, we are looking at the revocation of the legal underpinning of our civil liberties entirely.  It is time to pay attention.

115 thoughts on “Police State UK: The Rights You Didn’t Know You’d Lost

  1. Be aware that in Germany the protests now being branded ‘nazi’ sprung from genuine concern within all layers of society about the lack of say the people have. They seemed focused on protesting against Islamist extremism and mass muslim immigration, however the ( hidden) truth is they demonstrate against wars on muslims and islamic countries at the same time. Not just because they create the refugee-problem but just as well from a genuine moral concern . Even more important, to understand the real situation is the fact they want Germany to leave NATO and kick the US army out along with their nukes . This is crucial to understand what is happening : These demonstrations couldn’t be suppressed by the press constantly branding them ‘ultra-right-wing’ before, so now they turned up the repression by using agent provocateurs posing as nazis, using violence , even against asylumseekers. At all of us can now see and in the press how ‘horrible’ these protests are, Angela Merkel herself already called them ‘all nazis’ , the press here in Holland ‘introduced’ the demonstrators like this : ‘ The demonstrators are now all marching with their right arm streched’ .
    Please realise the level of foreign interference ( CIA) in each and every mainstream media outlet, be it papers or TV – networks. Also realise that agents infiltration into opposition and demonstrations is used in each and every ( upcoming ) dictatorship throughout history and all around the globe .
    This is a frontal attack at the very fabric of democracy and crackdown on freedom of speech is just part of that.

    The people know this, and the knowledge the media is anything but independent is spreading. It’s way more sinister than most of you can imagine or even allow yourselves to seriously investigate : The media are even actively involved in psy-ops like false-flag events (and the efforts to cover those up ).

    Also : Awareness of the level, the frequency and seriousness of how we are being manipulated in our level of knowledge, our opinions and our state of mind is virtually non-existent.

    Just an example( you might want to look into very seriously indeed, just a suggestion) is the mindbugling extent of the deception to make all of us view the Serbs and their leaders as ‘bad warmongering and evil imperialistic fascists’ to seduce us into waging war and supporting ( the actual nazistic , antisemitic and highly immoral and illegal) bosnian islamic troops lead by Izetbegovic , after he was pushed into the saddle by the West illegally , the Bosnian muslims didn’t elect him , in fact they wanted nothing to do with him , they knew very well what kind of character this man was and what it would lead to : War, provoked by horrible warcrimes against bosnian Serbs, which left the Serbs no choice to try and defend the helpless who were getting raped, tortured and slaughtered , men , women and children .

    It is a travesty the most highly morally decent and brave people in the world , the Serbs, were subjected to these kinds of injustices and lies . Look into the Serb history of ww2 , if you dare. They defended the jews and kept their identity secret to any price , even though they very well knew they would pay a have price for it , when they were already surrounded by the nazis, only to hold on to this by the devine level of ethics and morals which run deep into their very souls, after they were run over , the only nation and people to do so in Europe. And by God did they pay the price..

    The fact thousands of muslims FLED TO the Serb forces to escape from the wrath of the nazistic rule of Izetbegovic and his forces for not wanting to join in warcrimes against Serbs in any way is hidden from us, also that these refugees were welcomed , fed, cared for and protected by the Serbs, not in ‘camps’ .. No, they were free to move, they got medical care, they visited Serb towns to do shopping etc without any hindrance or harassment by anyone. I invite you to look into the history of the ‘concentration camp’ picture that we all saw in the West and that was used as a propaganda tool all around the world . You know there was a filmcrew who filmed the film-crew over there falsifying this ‘evidence’ . Look for the whole story, not just the scene where they staged the ‘ starved looking man ‘( he suffered from a decease making him look thin, he was fed very well by the Serbs and wasnt at all hungry or suffering )to stand ‘behind’ some barbed wire ( which wasn’t a part of any enclosed space at all btw) . You will find this deceiving crew knew very well these muslims fled to the Serbs for protection against the nazi – islamist Handzar divisions, so notorious for their warcrimes during ww2 as ‘waffen-ss’ , who were re-established under the same name by Izetbegovic , glorifying their ‘heroism’ during ww2 slaughtering non-muslim civilians in any horrific way you can think of and worse, doing so with the very same intentions . This crew knew very well how well these muslim refugees were treated, they were given a tour, they saw the medical aid, to talked to any of them freely, they saw them fed, they witnessed prisoners of war ( caught muslim fighters) being treated well too, even those suspected of warcrimes against Serbs. This is all documented and filmed, watch the footage please.

    Just dare to look into these issues further, after you watched this footage , you will find the Serb ‘deathcamps’ and ‘rape-camps’ that ate STILL being referred to as ‘facts’ are total propaganda , THEY NEVER EXISTED!

    Anyway, that’s all I wonna say on it for now. I just wish to express my hope some of you might have the guts and the decency to seriously investigate at the very least, to for once ignore your psychological impulse to ‘ not wanting to know’ , to resist the urge to ‘not take the risk’ you might find out your trust In your governments and your media might be false, to take the risk to maybe having to let go your subconscious desire and tendency to view them as your ‘replacement parents’ ,protecting you always and who will tell you the truth always and always did.

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  3. Cameron is a sly shite who thinks he can manipulate everybody. It only takes one brick to stem a flow against against a current and there’s many to choose from. As there’s an opportunity for ultimate power and related political income taken from the masses, he’s made himself a target already. I wonder if he knows who with!

  4. First Bush blew up the twin towers then with his buddy Blair started war crimes to de stabilize the world and control people by fear and take our rights away in the interest of anti-terrorism .They are getting away with it how and when will they be stopped.I fear for the future.This is power out of control.

    • The 1% are the individuals who are eroding civil rights of the 99%, the propaganda created by this group is they have a controlling right as if the main mass of the population are not oppressed this will lead to communism, I do not agree with this conclusion, if a greater number of individuals are included in decision making the input of diverse views should be a enrichment than a small number of minds as a collective of the input of the 1%, as we see the outcome our daily news is corruption, such as the corruption of Fifa, or the use of inflammable material used in high rise buildings imported from China as a cheap substitute for quality insulation material, these are just a contemporary comment on what is all part of the outcome of a small elite that I believe can be traced back to profiteering and short term money making of the 1%.
      The 1% rich work on the premise all men are corrupt or corruptible, whilst their is some truth in this as with a rotten apple will eventually contaminate all apples within its confines, the problem with mass corruption is like a vine that eventually kills the tree it parasites upon and eventually dies itself, corruption can only exist within a limited space and if corruption becomes complete in its universal hold will destroy not only the 99% but also the 1%, admitted they may be the last vestiges to go but their fate is sealed, the last of the 1% hanging will not be fun as part of the glory of the delude 1% is they centrally enjoy wealth as opposed to all those who are impoverished, if only the 1% is left? they have no wealth other than a abstract idea that is unsatisfying.

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  9. It is worrying what the police and other agencies are upto. They are taking our freedoms awy daily. It is all done to maintain the status quo of the masses being controlled and manipulated by the 1%. They want to enslave the people to an impoverished existence barely surviving above the bread line. The aim is to get rid of cash in society and to install all finances on a chip implant on each persons body. This will also act as a transponder, transmitting exact location and audio data to central monitoring centres via the internet etc…orwell only touched the surface!….I if the people were to not pay their energy bills, cancel corporate contracts I.e.sky, virgin etc and do their shoping in local businesses….and ditch their iphones…this would start to have an effect on the corporate control and manipulation of the people….before it is too late for future generations. ..

    • The 1%, have been in power as far as I know for centuries, such as Cromwell, introduced debt, from overseas, sources, the taxpayers owe the money, the debt, and in private hands, the bankers, are owed, the fact that these people are corrupt, is not the question here, I will not say who, names, as this will be trouble, for me, Robberts, plan is OK, but requires cooperation from the multitude, will not happen, also if it ever got going would be infiltrated by the 1%.

  10. The American government was created in reaction to the British system of government. Pamphlets and documents from the American Revolutionary period might be instructive.
    Who exactly is taking your rights and why would they want to?
    You could also go the route of Ghandi. If enough people filled the jails or went on strikes they’d get tired of it. From what I’ve read they don’t even like to lock up criminals in England because of the cost.
    My family owned land there long ago, maybe some still do. I don’t think I’d like it now or feel either free or safe there. By safe I mean able to draw my pistol and shoot a foreigner with a knife who might want to decapitate me.

  11. This govenment has put a d-notice type on the terrible actions of the london mayors office staff that impersonated a police officer and then made a fasle allegation that a very serious terrorism act was about to occur.namely the mayors office staff contacted the metropolitan police and stated that they had had a call from my phone number and stating that there was an iminent attack on a synagouge.if this was genuine then my address would be swarming with armed police.yet the police did not act because the mayors office staff made it up and boris johnson the mayor of london is up to his neck in this as he is fully aware of his own dept commiting a very serious misconduct in private office.i have tried to bring this into the public domain.by contacting.sky news.bbc news.online stories that newspapers are crying out for and even sent cbs news in the usa this story.i have heard nothing from any of them and this govenment that is also up to its neck in this story have covered it up by way of a d-notice.its highly unlikely that this story will now come out in my lifetime.if anyone can help me with this then please let me know and security services in this country dont bother.in hope and justice for all.shane algar.

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    • The doing something about it is a problem, in so far as not enough well informed people know what are the issues that have priority, the Establishment more or less works as a unified front, that is to keep the people down to survival mode, that means keep a police state force that enforces the rules of say road fines and motorist offences to generate income for the Establishment, the other thing is to keep people reactionary and not reflective as a condition to limit the mind set, the Establishment has a constant stream of young graduates, whose job is devise how to depress and repress people, these people are from usually well off families who already have a mind set of prejudice, that is suitable for the next reform of oppressive measures.

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  21. Governments are not concerned with the rights–real or imagined–of common folk, rather they concern themselves with power. People who rise to power come to believe that the protection of that power is acting in the public interest. All efforts by people to maintain an equal footing with this usurpation of their rights are identified as somehow out of step with the common good. The establishment of feudal relationships within their realm is first established, then defined as divine right, and then protected by the force of violence, all in the name of law and order. Every political institution, past and present, has evolved to this state of mind and ultimately collapsed. Herein lay the seeds of change, as the oppression increases and people are reduced to having little to lose, rebellion follows. Rome is not sustainable in the long term.

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  23. I am so glad I am not an Englishman, but wasn’t London not also the place where George Orwell’s famous noval 1984 were to take place. Personally I always thought of that novel as a dystopia, but perhaps the British government see it as an inspiration instead

    • I think you are right, the British government having come from the class that assumes control are flattered by Orwell’s rendition of possibility, it is difficult to asses Orwell as collaborator with the government that has a reputation of limited imagination other than the ability to work out the next scheme of repression or the collusive input to scam the people such as the next Ponzi scheme and at the same time be seen as doing the best thing for the society.

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