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More on Charles Clarke’s attacks on the media

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:29 pm on 27 April, 2006.
Categories privacy and surveillance, political liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
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Further to my previous article, it appears that Charles Clarke’s article was a condensed version of this speech he gave to the London School of Economics. My thanks go to “TD” on the uk.politics.misc newsgroup for pointing this out. TD’s article is worth reading (they usually are!).

I note the following (in addition to the example TD discusses):

Carr asserts, for instance, that, “damaging GM crops is defined as a terrorist act”. Where is this idea from? Nowhere in terrorism legislation is damaging GM crop fields defined as a terrorist act.

Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism in such a manner that causing serious damage to property to advance a political cause, and influence any government is an act of terrorism.

If you regard destroying fields of crops as “serious damage to property” (which could after all amount to thousands of pounds or more worth of damage) then it follows that anti-GM crop campaginers who engage in the destruction of such crops are causing serious damage to property, for a political cause, with the aim of influencing the government and are thus engaged in terrorism as the Terrorism Act 2000 defines it.

The National Identity Scheme is being introduced to safeguard people’s identities, not track their lifestyle or activities. The information that can be held on the National Identity Register covers only basic personal information roughly the same as that needed for a passport. It will not include details of withdrawals of cash from bank accounts, medical records or even whether someone has obtained a fishing licence.

This is patently false. Section 9 of Schedule 1 of the Identity Cards Act specifies that the information stored in your NIR entry should include information about every occasion on which information from the NIR entry is divulged to another person and every person to whom the information is divulged.

Thus if you register with, for example, a medical clinic and they are required to perform an identity check, then a record of that identity check and the fact that it was the clinic who made it will be stored in the NIR. The government wishes to make access to public services dependent on such identity checks.

Likewise if you go to the bank and carry out a high-value transaction and they check your identity, it will reveal the fact you had your identity checked by that bank to anyone with access to the NIR.

Our passport system currently simply does not record such information. Moreover, a future government could bring an area of life under surveillance by the simple expedient of running identity checks in that area. E.g. requiring identity checks at political protests or meetings would effectively enable the government to record who was at those meetings.

Quite clearly, the NIR will end up tracking people’s activities via the audit trail.

And let me conclude with one of the more ridiculous statements: “The presumption of innocence is no longer a fixed legal principal”. This is complete nonsense. In this country that you are innocent of an offence until proven guilty.'’

With this statement, Clarke neatly ignores the following laws this government has brought in (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • you need not be convicted of an offence to be placed under a control order, and thus you may be curfewed or even placed under full blown house arrest without a trial. The evidence and the accusations against you can be withheld from you thus scuppering your ability to defend yourself from such action.
  • several sections of the Terrorism Act 2000 reverse the burden of proof requiring people to prove their innocence in various matters, see here for details.
  • the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 allows travel banning orders, requiring people to hand in their passports to specified police station, to be imposed without proving they’ve committed an offence.

These are just a handful of the numerous examples of this government attacking civil liberties and pursuing authoritarian policies.

Chris Lightfoot has also made some pertinent comments on Clarke’s speech.

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