The past week has seen a number of stories of bullying and officious council behaviour as well as a landmark ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (more on this later) and a not-so-great landmark in the first trial without jury in Britain. Those who received last week’s newsletter will be aware that we wrote about Albert Stewart - the binman in Ormskirk who was removed from his round of 30 years by the council because he picked up rubbish left beside the wheelie bins on his route. Many of you contacted us saying that you sent emails to the council official responsible for this outrageous decision, and please remember to send us any interesting or revealing responses you receive back. It didn’t take long for the local press to pick up on our support for Albie, and we intend to keep the pressure up on the council until they reverse their decision.
Since we publicised Albert’s case, there have been several more shocking cases of the authorities abusing their power to inflict unnecessary distress on innocent people. On Monday we wrote about the businessman arrested in front of his young family and held in a cell for 4 hours because of an allegedly racist email sent to the council. As it turned out, not only was the email not racist in the slightest, the man in question didn’t even send it! Then a few days later, we received news of a popular 80 year-old livestock owner being threatened with imprisonment by his local council for a supposedly offensive billboard poster. Once again, not only was the poster completely inoffensive, it was also a birthday present organised by his friends and family!
It seems that a new decade has brought no let-up in the overbearing actions of those in authority. Remember, the place to read about these stories first is at http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/ and if you see or hear of any similar cases please do get in touch.
A great day for freedom in Britain
On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that police powers to use terror laws to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion are illegal. As reported in many of the newspapers the following day, Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, declared it “a great day for freedom in Britain. Random stop and search powers were an abuse of our historic, hard-won liberties.”
The facts are plain to see: There have been no successful prosecutions for terrorism offences resulting from these draconian stop and search powers. Last year Section 44 was employed more than 700 times every day without catching a single terrorist. They failed to safeguard us from anything – they served only to intimidate and to empower officials to intrude on us and our privacy without just cause – a terrible inversion of the proper relationship between the individual and the state.
However, this is the third occasion in very recent times that the European Court has had to tell the UK that we are behaving in a fundamentally illiberal and unjust way – together with the conviction of defendants solely or largely on the evidence of witnesses who do not attend trial for questioning, and the retention of samples from innocent people on the DNA database, this now shows a pattern of authoritarianism from our lawmakers.
Big Brother Watch will keep a close eye on how the government reacts to the ECHR ruling as we draw near to a general election.
Blogs of the Week
‘Web Cop’ to patrol internet for anti-police comments - West Midlands police announce plans to employ a ‘web cop’ whose role will be to find online criticism of the police and respond .Quite apart from the fact that this is a very poor way of changing people’s opinions (as opposed to say, actually doing better) how do we know that those who air their greviances aren’t being put on a blacklist?
Meet the friendly new fingerprint hawking the ID card - UK Identity and Passport Service unveil their latest attempt to boost the flat-lining take-up of the ID card with a friendly cartoon fingerprint and an advert that equates the government with the brutal Roman Empire. If it wasn’t so unintentionally funny, we’d be crying.
We should allow cameras to cover court proceedings - Head of Sky News, John Ryley, announces his intention to campaign for the introduction of broadcasting in court cases. Alex puts his Barrister’s hat (wig?) on to outline why we should support this campaign.
All those in the South East (and those with digital TV boxes that can pick-up regional programmes) tune into the BBC Politics Show South East (BBC1) at 12.25pm on Sunday to watch an in-depth feature on the Big Brother Watch report into local authority controlled CCTV cameras.
Ormskirk Advertiser – Ormskirk Advertiser readers send in their support for Aughton binman Albert Stewart
Alex Deane, director of the national pressure group Big Brother Watch, said: “This man is being punished for doing his job well and for using his common sense.
“The council should be ashamed – and they should put him back on the route he loves and knows so well.”
Daily Mail – Stop-and-search terror powers declared illegal by human rights court
Metro – Random stop and search is illegal
Daily Mail – Taxman using terror laws 15 times a day to spy on suspects
Alex Deane of the anti-surveillance pressure group Big Brother Watch said: ‘The widespread abuse of the law by councils has shown us how carefully we must look at the way these powers are used.
‘The extent of the use of RIPA by Revenue and Customs suggests that many individual taxpayers have been snooped on without their knowledge.’
He added: ‘Readers of the Mail who see this news today might rightly wonder who has been watching them.’
The Independent – Police stop and search powers ruled illegal
Coventry Telegraph – YouTube footage of fight outside Nuneaton nightclub
Lancashire Evening Post – Town Hall snoopers free to search your home
Coventry Telegraph – Coventry named CCTV camera capital of the UK
Andover Advertiser – Big Brother Watch’s power study