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Big Blunkett Wants Yet More Powers

The BBC reports that Big Blunkett is proposing to introduce yet more draconian powers to lock up suspected terrorists without a fair trial.

The new proposals are an extension of the current anti-terrorism laws rushed into being after September 11th. Those have already been condemned as creating “Guantanamo Bay in our own back yard”.

The new proposals would see British citizens tried partly in secret and denied access to the evidence against them. They would also reduce the burden of proof from “beyond reasonable doubt” to “on the balance of probabilities”.

Speaking on the Today programme, Senior lawyer Baroness Kennedy described the proposals as “a disgrace”. She went on to say:

“It is as if David Blunkett takes his lessons on jurisprudence from Robert Mugabe”

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

11 comments to Big Blunkett Wants Yet More Powers

  • Guy Herbert

    And disgracefully the opposition is failing to oppose this. see here Is this really a subject on which equivocation is possible?

  • harryj

    Have you forgotten the attack on the twin towers in New York? I think 3000 died including many Brits. Almost daily flights to the U.S. are cancelled because of credible threats of chemical/radiological attacks from terrorists. In any Western country there are large populations who do not try to conceal their hate for Western values, hate which is racial and anti-Christian, and of religious intensity. Surprisingly large numbers of lawyers believe in these terrorists and defiantly challenge our values, while willingly defending murderers. Moral equivalence comes naturally to them. Associations of lawyers may even be openly racist in their membership, accepting only black members.
    While we try to maintain the highest ethical standards of human rights, we would be stupid not to try to protect ourselves from the abuse we have positivly welcomed. The first duty of government is to protect it’s citizens.

  • Why is the Home Secretary making these policy speeches in India and Pakistan rather than here in the UK to Parliament and to the British people ? Why are we taxpayers paying for his foreign trip in any case ?

    How do secret trials without the defence being allowed to see the “evidence” against you, with the burden of proof reduced to “the balance of probabilities” rather than “beyond reasonable doubt” fit in with the Home Office’s slogan.of “Building a safe, just and tolerant society” ?

    If potential suicide bombers are under surveillance, and they have access to weapons or explosives or toxins, then the existing laws are quite capable of dealing with the threat.

    If all that they are suspected of is a Thought Crime, then how will any conviction under these new laws which results in a sentence short of detaining them for the rest of their lives, do anything except convert possible sympathisers into hardcore terrorists, exactly as happened with the futile and stupid policy of interning IRA sympathisers without trial ?

    harryj is entitled to his opinions, but he should be aware that an imprecise regular expression parsing of this weblog could easily classify him as a “white supremacist sympathiser – potential terrorist” at which point, come the next crackdown or political dirty tricks campaign against say the BNP etc., he could easily find himself facing Blunketts new Terrorism charges, on no more than such flimsy “secret electronic intelligence”, which he will be unable to challenge in court.

    Why should we allow a new rod for our own backs be built, which could so easily be turned against us in the future ?

    Where is the condemnation of Blunkett from the mainstream political parties ?

  • harryj

    Where is the political condemnation of Blunkett from the main political parties? Well it seems there is none. Why? because the politicians amazingly seem to support his reforms. I say amazingly because the Left-Liberal elite is triumphant in the U.K. and they normally widen human rights to protect criminals and terrorists, while reducing responsibilities to as close to zero as possible. Their agenda seems to be the destruction of the ethos and culture of the West. I really cannot see any other explanation of their consistent behaviour toward the majority of the population.

    I disregard the racist aspersionsof the last post as being the reflex response of those who wish to bring about national/international destruction of our culture. Accusations of racism are automatic, as is mention of the BNP.

  • Wether you are a racist or not is not the point. You used certain key words or phrases, and that is all that it takes for the terrorist profiling systems to crudely classify you into a certain stereotype. Thiss is evidenced by the recent terrorist alerts on transatlantic flights caused by the “analysis” of passenger lists.

    If Blunkett’s kite flies, then you too could stand accused of Terrorism, simply on the basis of “secret electronic intelligence”, and have no opportuniy to refute it in court. I mentioned the BNP, because that is an issue close to the heart of David Blunkett and is a target for state surveillance..

    I am not part of any “Left-Liberal elite” but I am opposed to soundbite politicians whose policies play into the hands of terrorists, by undermining our core freedoms and liberties.

    Today there does seem to be some slight difference between David Davis, the Tory Shadow Home Secretary, who. in his BBC Today programme radio interview has rejected the idea of changing the burden of proof for terrorist offences, and his leader Michael Howard, who is still sitting on the fence.


  • harryj

    Electronic surveillance is with us, a regrettable consequence of murderous terrorism, seen in New York, Bhali, Afganistan and around the world. Our choice is between this and exposure to religious faschists devoid of any sense of right or wrong, and not merely willing but positivly desiring to commit mass murder, as an article of religious devotion.

    On the principle of national safety I would expect no difficulty in showing my innocence. Thought crime is the invention of the Left-Liberal elite, no one is immune where they prevail; I refer you to Orwell. I do not know if David Davis or Michael Howard support Blunkett, but with an election not too far off they will have their eye on the majority of the votes available, as will all politicians, depending on the make up of their constituencies. As for the lawyers, they will go where the money is. As Disraeli is reputed to have remarked, “There is no problem which cannot be solved by hanging a hundred lawyers”. I wonder what the electronic surveillance will make of that?

  • harryj said:

    “…I would expect no difficulty in showing my innocence”

    I was brought up to believe that in the UK you are innocent unless proven guilty, not the other way round.

  • “Electronic surveillance is with us, a regrettable consequence of murderous terrorism, seen in New York, Bhali, Afganistan and around the world”

    Electronic surveillance of terrorists or serious criminals by the authorities is neither regrettable nor has it just been introduced since September 2001.

    Perhaps you have miissed all the debate about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: and about the Communications Data (itemised billing etc) data retention provisions of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.


    The Home Office deliberately wrote RIPA to exclude the content of phone taps or email interceptions from being used as evidence in court. The reason for this has nothing to do with protecting our privacy, but to protect the “sources and methods” and ttricks of the trade of GCHQ etc.

  • My latest blog points out that under current anti-terrorist legislation in Britain there is ample scope for preventing suicide bombers from carrying out their attacks, e.g. powers to arrest without warrant on mere suspicion of being a terrorist, detention without charge for upto a week (for British citizens, indefinitely for non-Brits), offences criminalising everything from membership of a proscribed organisation through possession of articles useful for terrorism to directing any activities of an organisation carrying out terrorism, etc.

    Blunkett’s proposals paradoxically may undermine the key to dealing with this problem namely good intelligence and solid investigation of terrorist offences. By reducing the burden of proof, you will ensure investigators (who work with finite resources) move to prosecute earlier than they would have done before and thus may end up being less thorough at their investigations than they are now. By using secret evidence withheld from the defendant, you make it incredibly easy for someone to be stitched up or wrongly accused. Both results ensure the real perpetrators will carry on getting away with it.

  • harryj states it’s the first duty of govt to protect its citizens.

    How does subjecting them to a system of prosecution where the defendant cannot defend his case because evidence is withheld from him, a low standard of proof is used, govt vetted judges and counsel administer the case and the trial is held in secret protect citizens?

    If evidence is withheld from the defendant in secret trials, is there anything to prevent it from simply being concocted to suit the govt?!

    These proposals are an attack on British citizens that enables the British govt to lock up anyone it dislikes very easily.

    The whole point of civil liberties is that they protect everyone from the abuses of govt power. Weakening them leaves everyone more exposed to this risk.

  • The maximum period for detention without charge under the Terrorism Act was recently extended from 7 days to 14 days, with no public justification of how or why this will make me any safer from terrorist attacks.


    Part of the duty of a civilised state is to have sufficient effective checks and balances to protect the innocent from overzealous state officials who are “simply carrying out orders” for fear of being victims themselves.