Thursday, 29 January 2009

Goodbye Habeus-Corpus

In a case that has gone backwards and forwards through the courts of appeal, but has received surprisingly little attention, Socialist Party member Lois Austin brought a case of unlawful imprisonment against the Metropolitan Police.

Along with thousands of other anti-globalisation protesters she was detained for seven hours at Oxford Circus back in 2001.
The police, as has now become a standard tactic of crowd control, sealed off exit routes and kept the protesters in a cordoned area.

It's been seen on countless occasions that far from calming down a volatile situation, this creates a pressure cooker environment guaranteed to piss-off the most peaceful of demonstrations. And of course for the police - when they send in their snatch squads of tooled-up goons - it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Anyway the House Of Lords has now had the last word on this and in language that seems to have come more appropraitely from Orwell's Ministry Of Truth than the mother of parliaments has ruled:

"Anyone on the streets must be taken to be consenting to the possibility of being confined by the police."

Be afraid.

1 comment:

paulM said...

You couldn’t make it up could you? In an article in the latest issue of Socialism Today, which went to press before the House of Lords decision, I discuss the historical origins of British civil rights.

I mentioned:

“ T.J. Wooler the editor of the radical paper Black Dwarf, who, in 1817 faced with imprisonment without charge or trial published an obituary for “poor HC” (habeus corpus) which demanded “Turning out the Ministers” who he compared to “caterpillars no part of the gooseberry bushes they eat, nor woodlice and earwigs of the walls they live in, monkies not made to run loose in china closets”.”

And also:

“The Scottish Judge Lord Braxfield who in 1793 sentenced five members of the radical democratic Corresponding Society to 14 years transportation to Australia, declaring “The British constitution is the best that ever was since the creation of the world, and it is not possible to make it better”.

I concluded that without a class understanding of History people can “be left ....wondering whether the culmination of 900 years struggle isn’t the 21st century successors of Lord Braxfield interpreting the abstract clauses of the Human Rights Act -- a worrying prospect indeed, given that in 2008 the High Court ruled that the Metropolitan Police had had every right to detain 3,000 May Day 2001 Demonstrators for seven hours, without charge, in Oxford Street. (I’m sure TJ Wooler would have had a thing or two to say about New Labour Ministers and their Police Commissioners!).”

Oh yes, Lord Braxfield, your spirit lives on in Lord Hope of Craighead, and we definitely need more T.J. Woolers today.