14 July 2010

Civil Liberties - glimmer of hope

Having previously reported two strikes against the new government for back-sliding on its election commitment to repair the damage to historic civil liberties inflicted by the Blair-Brown regime, have to applaud HomeSec Theresa May's announcement that a review of the draconian (and much abused) anti-terrorism legislation of the past few years will be led by the newly ennobled Ken Macdonald, QC.

Lib Dem Macdonald is a former director of public prosecutions and founder of Matrix Chambers, which has done so well (and none better than member Cherie Blair, QC) out of the Human Rights Act. It seems likely there will be a role for Shami Chakrabarti, the telegenic head of the civil rights pressure group Liberty, who calls it "a once in a generation opportunity to reform counter-terror measures and bring them within the rule of law."

Ex-Labour HomeSec David Blunkett is quoted by the Sun as saying: "A review pre-determined in its outcome by nominees to serve on it and the individual to oversee it is an insult to the British people."

Just like every other official inquiry or judicial review, then.

The Sun also quotes "a senior security source" saying: "There are fears the Government have not thought through the implications. "You either have complete security or complete civil liberties - you cannot have both."
A typical false dichotomy, of course. But since "complete security" is a chimera, let's settle for as many civil liberties as we can recover, because the last few years have proved, yet again, that citizens have far more to fear from arbitrary power exercised by the state than from foreign or domestic terrorism.

It's going to be intriguing to see how Macdonald and Chakarbarti finesse the issue of "hate speech" - for finesse it they surely will. Both of them have made statements in the past that indicate their belief that freedom of speech should be curtailed when it offends their oh-so "progressive" sensibilities.

It really should not be difficult for such fine legal minds to draw a line between stating a point of view that offends a lot of people, which must be protected, and incitement to commit a crime, which should be prosecuted.

But they won't even try. Phariseeism* is too deeply entrenched in the legal profession.

*Defined by Jesus as trusting in themselves that they are righteous - and despising others

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