Disillusioned Discordian

Terroism Act 2008 Damaging overview of the Police?
November 11, 2008, 9:48 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Terrorism Act 2008 has had a rocky ride through the parliamentary process. As part of the ongoing salvo against our civil liberties, this is perhaps unsurprising. The most notable rejection of the Act was over 42 day’s detention. The Baroness Hanham has however also moved an amendment NO 2:

Before clause 14, insert the following new Clause – “National guidelines on fingerprint and sample database(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations publish national guidelines for governmental agencies establishing-

(a) a procedure by which a person can request a statement of what information relating to fingerprints and samples is held on them or on a dependent;

(b) a procedure by which a person can request that such information held on them or a dependent is destroyed

The Amended bill will now be passed back to the commons following another defeat in the Lords, albeit this time with a slim majority. It’s pleasing that the lords are taking the issue of DNA retention seriously, however there remains a another serious aspect of the bill that has received less immediate attention, to be inserted into clause 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000:

“58A Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc A person commits an offence who – (a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been-

(i) a member of Her Majesty’s forces,

(ii)a member of any of the intelligence services, or

(iii)a constable,

Which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or (b) publishes or communicates any such information. It is a defense for a person charge with an offence under this section to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.

A person guilty of an offense under this section is liable – (a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to a fine, or to both.

So hang on it will be an offense to collect information on police officers if the authorities suspect it might be used by terrorists. or to publish information about officers. There is a legal defense if the person can provide a reasonable excuse. That still involves an individual having to go through a trial to prove it! When you take this legislation in context of alarmist advertising warning people to be ‘suspicious’ of everyday activities that might be related to terrorism, or the 15 year old school boy that was stopped and searched under Sec 44 for taking photographs for a school project… Anything could be deemed suspicious, in fact merely taking a photograph of the police will start to become a suspicious and potentially related to terrorist offenses. I also wonder what will become of sites like FIT Watch that document police offence involved in aggressive surveillance techniques that target political activists.

As previously blogged the NETCU are intent on blurring the line between protest and ‘domestic terrorism’, what if Animal Rights Activists make use of material on Google to direct a protest against a police constable? Would Google be breaking the law if their search engine picked up information on a constable that was then misused, or potentially misused according to ambiguous suspicion? Will the police put pressure on Investigative Journalist indirectly to not collect and gather information on Constables involved in suspected criminal activity – the implication is that you could be held responsible if information you published is used for terrorist acts. Well so long as you can prove you neither intended it to a paranoid state you are fine. In this murky grey area we can expect to see the usual function creep that has occurred with previous anti-terror legislation. This law won’t effectively stop terrorism, but it will be used by poorly trained PCSO to pick on people filming at protests, stations and in public. Within democracies we assign police officers, members of the security service and the armed forces additional legal powers. It is however fundamentally essential that as citizens we are able to record share and monitor their behavior.


1 Comment so far
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But you would accept most terrorists start off as protesters so it is reasonable to treat them as proto-terrorists at the very least.
There are no reasonable grounds for protest in this country anyway: if you have a problem *write to your MP*!! That’s what he’s there for – or vote at the next election.
Furthermore the police are entitled to privacy while doing their job which is dangerous and difficult and we should just trust them to do the right thing – the odd bad apple aside.

Comment by Geeklawyer

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