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This page provides occasional items, linked to the original articles, as we attempt to keep up with the rapidly changing situation on civil liberties.
Archive of old news service:
2002 - 2004

1st Jan to 9th Sept 2005


Metric martyrs case poses legal conundrum for the authorities

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:56 pm on 24 September, 2005.
Categories political liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
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In the Telegraph, Christopher Booker writes:

This extraordinary story began with a ruling by Lord Justice Laws in the “Metric Martyrs” case that certain Acts of Parliament, such as the Bill of Rights Act 1689, are “constitutional statutes” which cannot be overridden by subsequent legislation, unless this is made “expressly clear”. It was on this point that the judge decided that the Metric Martyrs, including the late Steve Thoburn, should be found guilty.

But a central provision of the Bill of Rights is that no one can be fined except by the judgment of a court. For more than a year therefore, Neil Herron, the Metric Martyrs campaign director, has been questioning the legality of the automatic parking fines imposed by the 142 councils that operate “decriminalised” parking schemes under the 1991 Road Traffic Act, since motorists penalised under these schemes have no recourse to a court. Their only appeal is to the National Parking Adjudication Service, which is run on behalf of and financed by the councils involved, and which is anyway on record denying that it is a court of law.

Sunderland city council -which originally seized Mr Thoburn’s scales - had so many motorists using the “Bill of Rights defence” to justify non-payment of these automatic penalties that it sought legal advice. Eleanor Sharpston QC said that, since it was the intention of the 1991 Act that the Bill of Rights should be set aside, the penalties are legal.

Here, however, Miss Sharpston is impaled on a hook, because it was she who represented Sunderland in the metric case, which she only won because of Laws’s ruling; and Laws was unequivocal in saying that the Bill of Rights can only be overridden where Parliament makes this “expressly clear”.

The 1991 Act does nothing of the kind. The only way Miss Sharpston can defend her latest opinion is by rejecting the very ruling that won her the case. If she is right, the Metric Martyrs’ case should be quashed.

Booker also notes that the government are considering legislating to set aside the Bill of Rights, though this might not work since Parliament has no power to undo the Declaration of Rights that the Bill enshrined.

Could we be seeing an embryonic written constitution for Britain in the making here?

The exclusion zone around Westminster

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:14 pm on .
Categories political liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
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This article looks at the impact of the recently imposed exclusion zone around Parliament, preventing spontaneous protests, with a group of protestors testing out just what constitutes a protest. According to the article:

Mark Barrett, a tour guide who has already been arrested under the new law, and others from various causes gather purely in support of free speech for, as he says: “It removes the essence of protest if you have to ask permission from the state.” Barrett has not yet been charged, but the police have forbidden him from going within one kilometre of Big Ben. So he can’t take a trip on the London Eye, let alone meet his MP in his Parliament. So far 17 people have been arrested for allegedly demonstrating outside Parliament without police permission, which carries a maximum prison sentence of almost a year.

Meanwhile, it seems the Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, is keen to have a memento of a lovely Sunday, which was no doubt why his emissary, a police photographer, took pictures of all the picnickers.

Woman arrested for wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Bollocks to Blair”

Posted by Administrator @ 9:13 pm on .
Categories political liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
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The Liberty and Livelihood blog reports that a young woman was arrested at a country fair, apparently for wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Bollocks to Blair”:

Charlotte Denis, 20, a gamekeeper from Gloucestershire, was stopped by police as she left the Countryside Alliance stand because of the “offensive” slogan.

Shocked and dismayed to be made a public spectacle, Denis tried to reason with the officers: “What do you want me to do? Take my top off and wear my bra?”

At this point, two officers marched Denis towards a police car. “They grabbed me as if I was a football hooligan,” she says.

Although the “Bollocks to Blair” slogan was in evidence all round the Game Fair, police maintained it was the first time they had seen it.

“They had to walk past a huge banner in order to get to me and there were lots of other people wearing the T-shirts,” explained Denis.

A tearful Denis was driven to a mobile police unit. “I asked the officers how they could arrest someone for wearing a T-shirt and they told me it was because it would offend a 70-80-year-old woman,” she said.

Blog censorship handbook released

Posted by Administrator @ 8:50 pm on .
Categories political liberties.
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The BBC reports that a blog censorship handbook has been released, providing advice to bloggers on how to protect themselves against censorship:

Included in the booklet, called The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents, is advice about how to blog anonymously, as well as how to identify the most suitable way to circumvent censorship.

It also outlines some help on developing ethical and journalistic values.

Blogs - easy-to-set-up diary-like websites - are proving increasingly popular on the net as vehicles through which people can publish their own thoughts.

Technorati, a blog search engine, tracks more than 17 million blogs globally. Blogs can be anything from personal diaries, to technology news, and political comment.

Many have turned to blogging in countries where mainstream media is restricted. But they are increasingly being targeted by strict authorities.

British government proposes yet more terror laws

Posted by James Hammerton @ 7:30 pm on 18 September, 2005.
Categories political liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
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The British government is proposing yet another “anti-terror” act to go along with the Terrorism Act 2000, Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 and Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. It appears the government is not content with such measures as:

Amongst other things, under the proposed bill:

  • the police will be able to hold terrorist suspects without charge for upto 3 months,
  • it will be an offence to possess, publish, sell, distribute or otherwise make available publications that either encourage terrorist acts or are of assistance in the commission or preparation of terrorist acts.

The bill also includes several reversals of the burden of proof.

Samizdata and both have commentary on this bill.

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