We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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Hearsay (2)

Mr Clarke: Concerns about police powers have been widely expressed, particularly in regard to stop and search. I want to make it clear that the Bill, and the introduction of identity cards, will make no difference to the general powers of the police to stop people for no reason and demand proof of identity. The Bill will make no difference to the powers that exist under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. In fact, quicker, reliable access to confirmed identification would help to reduce the time a suspected person might spend in police custody. The effect of that would be to reduce the number of people wrongly held in police custody while their identity was being checked, which would be of benefit to the individual and to the police.

I also want to confirm that there is no requirement to carry an identity card at all times, as there have been many questions about that.

Hansard, 28 June 2005

NEW anti-terrorism laws are to be pushed through before Tony Blair leaves office giving “wartime” powers to the police to stop and question people.

John Reid, the home secretary, who is also quitting next month, intends to extend Northern Ireland’s draconian police powers to interrogate individuals about who they are, where they have been and where they are going.

Under the new laws, police will not need to suspect that a crime has taken place and can use the power to gain information about “matters relevant” to terror investigations.

If suspects fail to stop or refuse to answer questions, they could be charged with a criminal offence and fined up to £5,000. Police already have the power to stop and search people but they have no right to ask for their identity and movements.

The Sunday Times, 27 May 2007

BBC online’s heading on the latter matter was “Stop and quiz powers considered” which seems much less frightening.

“Good evening, Sir. What was the subject of the Pet Shop Boys’ 2006 single Integral?”

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14 comments to Hearsay (2)

  • guy herbert

    As a pedantic footnote to Mr Clarke’s speech: this was of course said before the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2006 made considerable difference to the powers under PACE 1984, and new Codes of Practice with the force of law were introduced at the end of 2005. Because of the peculiar way British statutes work, the altered powers are still deemed to derive from PACE.

  • Sunfish

    I also want to confirm that there is no requirement to carry an identity card at all times, as there have been many questions about that.

    I call ‘bullshit.’ What’s the point of these new ID cards if there’s no requirement that they be carried???

    NEW anti-terrorism laws are to be pushed through before Tony Blair leaves office giving “wartime” powers to the police to stop and question people.

    What are ‘wartime’ powers? How are these distinguished from the contacts that we in the US call the ‘Terry’ stop?

    For non-US readers: That’s a reference to a US Supreme Court case called Terry v. Ohio. The holding was that police officers, upon finding reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime is afoot, may stop a suspect for the purpose of investigation. The holding allowed for limited searches of the suspect for weapons to prevent their use on the officer, with such searches being limited to cases where the officer can actually explain why he thought such a weapon might be present.

    This decision found that such limited ‘investigative detentions’ based upon RAS did not violate the Fourth Amendment, but limited the time and scope. It’s very difficult to justify holding someone longer than 20-30 minutes, more difficult to justify handcuffing or otherwise ‘significantly restraining’ a suspect, and almost impossible to justify moving or transporting him. Those typically escalate the situation to an arrest, requiring far more justification.

    If suspects fail to stop or refuse to answer questions, they could be charged with a criminal offence and fined up to £5,000. Police already have the power to stop and search people but they have no right to ask for their identity and movements.

    If someone refuses us, then we have to merely dilligently pursue our investigations by other means while they get to sit and wait. Even so, we still have to meet the ‘reasonableness’ standard, and once we run out of investigative avenues we need to either arrest them (requiring us to explain what crime they actually committed) or turn them loose.

    What kind of fascist bullshit is TB trying to pull??

  • Sunfish, you are a real asset, giving us a perspective ‘from the coal face’ of police work on such issues.

  • guy herbert

    I call ‘bullshit.’ What’s the point of these new ID cards if there’s no requirement that they be carried???

    That one’s easy. The National Identity Scheme is no more about ID cards than REAL-ID is about driving licenses. To quote the NO2ID website:

    Let’s get this straight – it isn’t just about identity cards. The government’s identity scheme includes a huge database to keep tabs on everyone, a massive infrastructure to collect peoples’ details, and a giant network of technology required to verify people against their cards and both of these against the database.

    The card is just the tip of the iceberg.

    The proposed National Identity Management System has multiple layers: The National Identity Register (NIR); individual checking and numbering of the population; making personal details into “registrable facts” to be disclosed and constantly updated; collection and checking of biometrics (e.g. fingerprints); the card itself (and other documents made equivalent to an ID card); a widespread scanner and computer terminal network connected to the central database; widespread use of compulsory identity “verification” ; and data-sharing between organisations on an unprecedented scale.

    How are these distinguished from the contacts that we in the US call the ‘Terry’ stop?

    British police already have powers to search, detain, and arrest people on reasonable suspicion of commission of an offence. Under the Terrorism Act 2000 even the reasonableness requirement is suspended for certain purposes. What they can’t yet do is insist that persons suspected of nothing and not arrested identify themselves or answer questions. The only reason for such a power would be “intelligence gathering”.

    The effect would be to permit arbitrary questioning with the implied threat of arrest and punishment. The arrest is more serious in many cases in England than in the US, since having arrested someone, police do not necessarily require a warrant to search and seize their property. If you are a journalist, say, having your computers and telephones taken away “for examination” is likely to be a serious problem.

  • Pa Annoyed

    “What’s the point of these new ID cards if there’s no requirement that they be carried???”

    It’s not the cards that matter, it’s the database. It is compulsory to be on the database, so all the cops have to do is take your fingerprint or look at your iris. They don’t need a card to find out who you are. The card is a blind. You can shred it the moment you get it; it won’t matter.

    Anyway, if their plan works out, while it won’t be technically necessary to carry it, it will be practically necessary. Like the banks do not require you to carry your credit/debit cards when you leave the house, but you’d better do if you want access to your own money. For many people, they would be virtually broke without it.

    The point is that everybody uses any secure ID they can get – banks, loaning libraries, internet cafes, hotels, credit reference agencies, hospitals, local councils, employers, car hire companies, everyone. When the card becomes available, it will soon become acceptable, and then slowly it will become compulsory. Who is going to accept something as insecure as a birth certificate when they know you have an ID card?

    The government will not need to enforce that. The people will do it for them.

  • guy herbert

    US readers in particular may wish to note the date on that legislation. The Terrorism Act 2000 received the Royal Assent on 20th July 2000, being the outcome of a set of proposals from HMG “Legislation against terrorism” published at the end of 1998.

  • guy herbert

    Interestingly the police minister, Mr McNulty, has just been on the radio, carping about “wailing from people who have no idea what the proposed powers are”.

    Let’s see:

    1. Home Office gives something about some proposals to The Sunday Times, which quotes Mr McNulty.

    2. Civil libertarians react to this account.

    3. Mr McNulty pops up to say civil libertarians have completely the wrong end of the stick, and that the proposals won’t be what the reports of them suggest.

    4. … What’s the betting? My suggestion: the proposals when they do appear will revolutionise police powers in all sorts of difficult to understand, and rather boring, ways. Mr McNulty (in his second manifestation) will be proved right in that they aren’t quite what Mr McNulty (in his first manifestation) originally suggested. The Government will suggest that Liberty, me, and other critics are always overreacting.

  • Sunfish

    Guy Herbert:

    British police already have powers to search, detain, and arrest people on reasonable suspicion of commission of an offence. Under the Terrorism Act 2000 even the reasonableness requirement is suspended for certain purposes. What they can’t yet do is insist that persons suspected of nothing and not arrested identify themselves or answer questions. The only reason for such a power would be “intelligence gathering”.

    From context, I’m guessing that the stop-and-question is intended to be used on people who are not suspected all. What is the stated rationale for that? Are they concerned with reluctant witnesses? (In the US, in the Federal system, there’s some rule allowing custodial arrests of material witnesses to ensure their appearance in court. I’m not familiar with it, though, since my state doesn’t have anything similar under state law.)

    Based on your account, I can see any number of possible abuses. However, what’s the overt stated purpose for this?

    The effect would be to permit arbitrary questioning with the implied threat of arrest and punishment. The arrest is more serious in many cases in England than in the US, since having arrested someone, police do not necessarily require a warrant to search and seize their property. If you are a journalist, say, having your computers and telephones taken away “for examination” is likely to be a serious problem.

    US law allows for a “search incident to arrest.” Ours is merely a search of the arrestee’s person and the area immediately around him to prevent him from obtaining a weapon or destroying evidence, and must be contemporaneous with the arrest. Is the English version more-sweeping than that?

    From the concern about journalists having their computers taken, I imagine it could be. How does that work and what’s the reasoning behind it? I mean, the suspect isn’t going to be tampering with evidence if he’s in jail, and it’s not usually THAT hard to get a warrant if one has the evidence to support one.

    Okay, it’s not that hard over here. I’m woefully ignorant of how such things work outside the US.

    Sorry about the questions, but I know very little about English law and policing. I read some blogs kept by cops in the UK and find myself understanding everything, until something completely random hits me and reminds me that it’s like a whole ‘nuther country. 21st-century English policing seems designed to frustrate cops and victims, provide no real protection to the public, nor even a false perception of safety, and waste no end of money on playing statistical games in Home Office propaganda that nobody reads anyway.

    It seems like HMG is trying to build the Gestapo using the methods and people of the New York Department of Motor Vehicles or the Marx Brothers. Do even the would-be oppressors benefit from this??

    (And of course it’s completely better here. Right. There’s a really sweet bridge over the South Platte for a very reasonable price if you buy that.)

  • Nick M

    I’ll second what Perry says about Sunfish. I mean if a copper calls it bulshit… Sheesh.

    Anyhow, is it so surprising that HMG is moving forward with such draconian schemes during the interregnum? Who do we blame? Ex-Home Sec Reid?

    When I first heard about this one I thought immediately of something Chris Harper (Samizdata commentator) said recently: “New Labour is unquestionably fascist”. Or words to that effect. I don’t mind the cops having the power to ask people such questions in order to prevent terrorism as long as the subject is wearing a turban, robes and a beard and wandering down the road with a box under his arm clearly marked with a rad-hazard symbol. That’s fine by me but isn’t that already covered by “probable cause”?

    Guy,
    The greatest trick the Devil ever accomplished was convincing us he didn’t exist.
    I have to admit I didn’t really think of ID cards as being much more than another crappy tax (like the TV license) until I read the NO2ID site… Then my cogs got turning. The government will attempt to demonstrate it’s “civil liberties” cred by announcing that this, that and the other is not going to be on the card. None of it matters. All the card requires is to identify you and then the database(s) does/do the rest. And lordy, what could they connect to… You’ve scared the pants off me. Cheers!

    It’s evil in the context of the state knowing everything about me. It’s doubly evil in that (having worked in data-entry for HMG I know the astonishing capacity for cock-up) the data could be very wrong. It would not surprise me if I ended up on a government database as a peacock molester or worse!

    Has HMG made any suggestion that the NIR data should be accesible to it’s subjects? All of it? It would not surprise me if they made an argument against this on the basis that the person asking and flashing their shiny new ID card had not proved their identity sufficiently.

    But who am I to stand in the way of progress? Like it costing a fiver to drive into the centre of my city or chipped wheelie bins or being clocked by cameras on average 500 times when I decide to go shopping. All those things are very progressive and so deeply empowering that I wanna puke.

  • guy herbert

    Sunfish,

    From context, I’m guessing that the stop-and-question is intended to be used on people who are not suspected all. What is the stated rationale for that? Are they concerned with reluctant witnesses?

    No, though it might end up used that way among others.

    It has been leaked and semi-withdrawn, so no-one knows what is proposed. According to today’s BBC report:

    “A Home Office spokeswoman said that the new proposals would give officers an automatic right to stop and question anyone in the UK about suspected terrorism.”

    Which is not nearly the same as what was reported yesterday, that police would be entitled to demand people to identify themselves and account for their movements. (Two things they can’t do at the moment.)

    (Interestingly, ss19 & 20 of the Terrorism Act 2000 respectively require and permit people to report suspicions about “terrorist property” to the police, and such suspicions need not be reasonable. So arbitrary questioning “about suspected terrorism”, could involve people being compelled to speculate prejudicially about others. More shades of witch-finding.)

    I think the Home Office and/or Government ministers are making it up as they go along.

  • I think the Home Office and/or Government ministers are making it up as they go along.

    Was there any doubt about it?

  • “Good evening, Sir. What was the subject of the Pet Shop Boys’ 2006 single Integral?”

    I flunked calculus. I don’t know how to solve for a single integral.

  • Sunfish

    I think the Home Office and/or Government ministers are making it up as they go along.

    Perhaps someone might explain to them, when their genitalia are on the floor and they’re wearing golf shoes, random and unguided stamping of feet is NOT a good idea.

    Truth be told, I can actually see how these powers might be useful. Reluctant victims and witnesses do more to raise my work stress than anything else I can think of offhand. Doesn’t change the fact that jailing people who are not even alleged to have done anything wrong is sick, wrong, disgusting, and called “kidnapping” when anyone else does it. b

    I’d personally quit if that ever became law here, out of the “Don’t lend a hand to raise no flag atop a ship of fools” principle, but that’s just me.

  • Sunfish

    As a pedantic footnote to Mr Clarke’s speech: this was of course said before the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2006 made considerable difference to the powers under PACE 1984, and new Codes of Practice with the force of law were introduced at the end of 2005. Because of the peculiar way British statutes work, the altered powers are still deemed to derive from PACE.

    For what it’s worth, I read a number of blogs kept by cops in the UK and correspond with a few. As of yet, it doesn’t appear that anyone has actually been trained in the 2006 act yet, even though it’s now law.

    When I first heard about this one I thought immediately of something Chris Harper (Samizdata commentator) said recently: “New Labour is unquestionably fascist”. Or words to that effect. I don’t mind the cops having the power to ask people such questions in order to prevent terrorism as long as the subject is wearing a turban, robes and a beard and wandering down the road with a box under his arm clearly marked with a rad-hazard symbol. That’s fine by me but isn’t that already covered by “probable cause”?

    One would think. It seems to me that if a cop can actually explain with a straight face why he thinks evil is afoot and why he thinks a particular person is causing it, then there’s already the legal power to arrest, detain, search, whatever.

    And we already have no end of power to ask questions. We can’t really compel them to answer, which drives me nuts sometimes, but a guy who truly believes that God told him to kill dozens of people (and incidentally himself) isn’t going to be overly impressed by being snagged up for contempt of cop.

    The point is that everybody uses any secure ID they can get – banks, loaning libraries, internet cafes, hotels, credit reference agencies, hospitals, local councils, employers, car hire companies, everyone. When the card becomes available, it will soon become acceptable, and then slowly it will become compulsory. Who is going to accept something as insecure as a birth certificate when they know you have an ID card?

    For whatever it’s worth to you…the Mexican consulates here issue an ID card called the “Matricula Consular.” It’s issued to people in the US who claim to be Mexican but unable to get a US-issued ID (illegal aliens, in other words) but there’s basically no real effort to verify that the applicant is who he says he is. The reason this is relevant is that US businesses which require identification from customers will now often accept them, banks being a prime example. There are also banks which will write home loans to people without social security numbers . SSN’s are given to all US citizens, everyone who is eligible to work here, and plenty of people who can’t even legally work: exchange students and such, as 49 states require them for a driver’s license.

    I’ve never seen a hospital put that much effort into getting proof of identity either, except for checking an insurance status. And come to think of it, I don’t know that my insurance company even really verified anything. They kind of took my word for it that I’m male and 30-something and no longer a smoker and so forth.

    I think most businesses are more concerned with whether the customers have good money than good identities..