Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The One That Would Vote For Her. . .

Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5 is someone I'm swiftly getting a liking for. She spoke out about the 42 days detention when all the fur was flying about that, and now she's spoken out about ministers using the threat of terror to clamp down on civil liberties.

There is a school of thought that all this is a Labour plan to have control over every facet of our lives, the idea that real power comes not from the ballot box (and let's face it, political power doesn't reside in Westminster any more, it lives in Brussels) but from control over the individual. That means we must all be measured, recorded, tracked and visible to the powers that be at all times.

The other school of thought is that we are half way to hell on the road signposted 'Good Intentions'. I agree that a significant number of people are of the opinon that what is being done is because those in power really, honestly believe that it is for the best.

I think the truth lies somewhere in between. A small number of sociopathic control freaks, using the dogwhistle of terror to jolly along all those who want to do the right thing, those who say 'OK, perhaps we can let this one go then.' But before they realise it, the zealots are knocking on the door making the case for the next liberty to be taken away. Those reasonable people then consider the point, not for a moment thinking back to how they would have felt a year earlier if this had been suggested.

And so the next one is gone.

Old Holborn was out yesterday, at New Scotland Yard, taking photographs. It is now possible to be arrested for taking photos of a police officer, or a public building, or any public scene that is judged to be likely to support terrorism or acts in preperation thereof. Well, who makes these judgements?

We've seen footage in the past of officer and PCSOs who do not like being photographed and filmed, now those officers can decide that they don't like it and can arrest you for it. Of course it would never end up in court, but you could find yourself locked up for no other real reason than a policeman has taken a dislike to you, or you've proved an inconvenience, or pehaps taken footage which shows an officer doing something wrong, something illegal, and that officer wants it out of the way.

Apparently the feeling is that police officers need protecting from terrorists. I can remember no instance of a police officer being directly targeted by terrorists since Yvonne Fletcher was killed by a shot outside the Libyan Embassy in London in (appropriately enough) 1984.

Well what's the next step in protecting these officers? Removal of their collar numbers so they cannot be identified? Anonymous 'secret' police stations, with cells that don't really exist, for crimes where a solicitor may not be present at interview? Why not just dress our police officers like this?

I don't blame the rank and file officers, but our police force has changed, it seems to me that their primary function is no longer the prevention and detection of crime or disorder, but is now to be deployed in a manner that the political class finds advantageous to them. I have little dealing with the police on this level, but I know this.

I know that if my house is broken into, if my car is stolen, if my property is damaged I will not see a police officer. A PCSO may pop round to take details for recording purposes and then, someone with an eye on targets, will attempt to 'no crime' it, even if it is recorded as a crime no action to investigate will be made. I mean, I've got insurance, that's what it's for. However, I also know that if I walk down the street dressed in an unusual style, take a photograph of a public building, or sit, reading a book, on a bench in a public park that just happens to be near a playground, I will be pounced upon, questioned, searched and perhaps even detained.

This is not the police service I pay for, and it is not a style of policing that is suitable for any country which says it is a free democracy. We're not there yet, but the actions of ministers, ACPO and over excited front line staff take us ever closer to the Stasi and Securitate, and it is almost within touching distance.

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