Labour under fire over Police Bill

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Indy Politics
The new leader of the 9,000 barristers in England and Wales launched a stinging attack last night on the Labour Party for failing to oppose the Government's "law and order" programme.

Robert Owen QC, who takes over as chairman of the Bar on 1 January, said in his inaugural speech that the opposition had "failed lamentably" to promote a proper debate over the proposals for mandatory sentences and new police powers to conduct bugging and covert searches without warrants.

"The Police Bill now before Parliament raises constitutional issues of extraordinary importance," Mr Owen said. "It will permit the police covertly to invade private property to place electronic listening devices. Barristers chambers and solicitors offices are not excluded. The proposals will therefore also be an invasion of legal professional privilege. The answer is surely that such a power should be subject to the same constraints as a search warrant, namely that its exercise should be authorised by the judiciary.

"What is of the greatest concern is that at present the proposals are not opposed by the Opposition. It has been left to the law lords and to the Liberal Democrats in Parliament."

Mr Owen accused both government and opposition of appearing to be "prepared to sacrifice important constitutional principles to short term political advantage".