The Tempest unleashed by Miranda
(Follow on to Alice through the Looking Glass (part 1 of many)
A Home Office Spokesman has responded to the furore over the detention of David Miranda:
“The government and the police have a duty to protect the public and our national security.
“If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism, then they should act and the law provides them with a framework to do that. Those who oppose this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning.”
BBC News Website 20 August 2013: David Miranda in legal challenge over seized data
This statement deserves to be taken apart.
“The government and the police have a duty to protect the public and our national security.”
Yes, but not an unlimited duty and that duty is to protect the public not just from terrorism but from apparently arbitrary treatment.
“If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism, then they should act and the law provides them with a framework to do that. “
Yes, but it should be effective and within a generally accepted legal framework.
Schedule 7 is not effective because it can only be applied at ports. It cannot be applied for instance at domestic railway stations, motorway service areas, public houses or people’s homes. If a terrorist gets through the airport, under Schedule 7, he is home free. Either these powers are required across the whole of the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom or not at all.
Any law should be within a generally accepted legal framework. In the United Kingdom there is a general acceptance that there are strict limits on when you can be detained, under what condition and for how long you can be detained. There is also an acceptance that you should have access to legal representation. We also understand that we have a right to silence:
“You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
Curiously this well-known phrase is similar to the statement known in the US as the Miranda warning!
If we start saying “Ah, yes but ‘Terrorism’ trumps all these expectations”, you undermine the public confidence in and understanding of the legal system. You have to accept that any Policeman could stop you and make such a “terrorism over-ride” claim and you would not know where you stand. The state then has a very particular and nasty power over you. That is actually removing a protection from the public. The more I read about this the more worrying it is. If, for instance, you are stopped and you demand a solicitor, would you now trust the system when you are introduced to someone and told “this is the duty solicitor”?
“Those who oppose this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning.”
OK, so that is a direct threat to all of us who question these powers – along the lines of Bush’s “if you are not with us, you are against us”. Nasty, but to be honest I am no longer surprised – the state can be brutish, draconian and authoritarian. Perhaps those who support this sort of action should also think about what they are condoning.