The stealthy erosion of civil liberties that have been fought for over the centuries

Share
Related Topics

Notwithstanding the Home Secretary's last-minute "concession" in the House of Commons yesterday, the case against the Government's Prevention of Terrorism Bill is overwhelming. If this Bill becomes law it will mean an individual can be detained, for an indefinite period, in his or her home. British citizens could be deprived of their liberty without knowing of what they are accused. Nor would they be allowed to challenge the evidence against them.

Notwithstanding the Home Secretary's last-minute "concession" in the House of Commons yesterday, the case against the Government's Prevention of Terrorism Bill is overwhelming. If this Bill becomes law it will mean an individual can be detained, for an indefinite period, in his or her home. British citizens could be deprived of their liberty without knowing of what they are accused. Nor would they be allowed to challenge the evidence against them.

This Bill would compromise one of our fundamental civil liberties - the right to a fair trial. This is the cornerstone of our freedom. For it to be suspended - however temporarily - the Government would have to show that our nation is facing an overwhelming threat and that it has absolutely no alternative course of action. It has failed to do either of these things.

Charles Clarke's claim that a High Court judge - rather than the Home Secretary - will be responsible for issuing house arrest control orders, is a red herring. To maintain that it is a "concession" for the Home Secretary to allow judges to issue such orders is to turn our entire legal tradition on its head. It is judges, not politicians, who have the power to imprison people in this country. And in any case, this would still not justify the reversal of the presumption of innocence that this Bill would introduce.

To hear the Prime Minister making the case for this Bill yesterday was to be reminded of the folly of entrusting this particular government with any further powers. Tony Blair took to the airwaves to warn of "several hundred people" in Britain plotting to commit acts of terrorism, citing this as a reason why these restrictions on our liberty are necessary. We have, of course, heard such blood-curdling warnings - supposedly based on infallible secret intelligence - from the Prime Minister before. Did he not shamelessly distort the evidence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction to suit his desire to invade Iraq alongside President Bush? It is unsurprising if we are sceptical to hear Mr Blair again citing secret intelligence to support his own suspect political agenda.

The Prime Minister has accused those who are opposed to this legislation of being in a state of denial about the threat posed by terrorists. This is simply untrue. The guilty plea of Saajid Badat at the Old Bailey yesterday for conspiring to cause an explosion on an aircraft is a sobering reminder of the threat we face. But this case actually provides a strong argument for dealing with terrorists through the courts. Consider how Badat, a British citizen, was brought to justice. He was arrested using good intelligence and prosecuted in the usual, traditional manner. This is the way that a democracy should deal with the threat of terrorism.

Mr Blair also accuses his opponents of failing to put forward alternative proposals. Again, this is untrue. We, along with others, have urged the Government to use pre-trial hearings and intercept evidence in court. This should help to gain convictions, while at the same time protecting intelligence sources. His Government has chosen to reject these constructive proposals out of hand.

For almost eight years, Mr Blair's government has steadily eroded civil liberties that have been fought for and protected over the centuries. It has diluted the citizen's right to trial by jury. A person can now, in some instances, be tried twice for the same crime. There are plans afoot to introduce identity cards and laws to restrict our freedom of speech in the shape of a law against incitement to religious hatred. Anti-social behaviour orders have been elevated into this government's primary tool of social policy. It is through similar court orders that the Home Secretary now proposes to undermine the British citizen's freedom from arbitrary detention.

This stealthy erosion of our civil liberties must go no further. We cannot allow any more of our fundamental rights to be discarded by a government that has shown itself to have such scant respect for the conventions that guarantee our freedom. Enough is enough.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently  

Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015