Police chief urges bill of rights

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The Independent Online
One of the country's most senior police officers has criticised Britain as a secret, unaccountable society whose people remain subjects rather than citizens.

Tony Leonard, chief constable of Humberside, said the Government should enact a bill of rights, a written constitution and a freedom of information act.

"The law must limit the ability of governments to restrict citizens' rights - rights to information, freedom of speech, privacy, association and security," he told the Catholic Universe newspaper. The mechanism to safeguard citizens' rights would be a written constitution presided over by a constitutional court.

Such a constitution, once agreed, could only be amended by a substantial vote of something like two-thirds of both houses of Parliament. "The legal framework thus created could establish not only the balance between the rights and responsibil- ities of the individual within a democratic society, but also define the obligations of and limits to the power of the state," he said.

Mr Leonard also urged the Government to introduce a Freedom Of Information Act. "It will only be by opening up the system that people will be able to get the information to make sense of the rights guaranteed by the constitution."

Mr Leonard criticised the former Tory government: "Their approach was just punitive with no regard for the social consequences of some of their economic and industrial policies."