• Media Enquiries

    07505 448925(24hr)

Time for surveillance transparency


Today the three heads of Britain's intelligence agencies appear infront of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee in a televised hearing, the first time for such a hearing to be broadcast. Progress, yes, but let's not get ahead of ourselves - the head of the CIA first appeared on TV speaking to congress in 1975, so it's hardly a revolution in oversight. Today we have published new polling by

GCHQ faces legal action over mass surveillance


Today Big Brother Watch, working with the Open Rights Group, English PEN and German internet activist Constanze Kurz, has announced legal papers have been filed alleging that GCHQ has illegally intruded on the privacy of millions of British and European citizens. We allege that by collecting vast amounts of data leaving or entering the UK, including the content of emails and social media messages, the UK’s spy

Patients win choice of sharing medical records


Earlier this year, we led the concern that a new NHS data sharing plan would see every patient's medical records uploaded to a new information system without the right to opt-out. We warned at the time that patient records would be out of patient control. On Friday, the Secretary of State confirmed that this will not be the case. We have worked closely with MedConfidential and Privacy International to ensure

Boom in private investigators risks avoiding surveillance regulation


Our latest report highlights the growing use of private investigators by local and public authorities, particularly the number of times they are used without RIPA authorisation. The law in the UK, particularly the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, is broadly drawn to allow evidence to be introduced in court that in other jurisdictions would not be deemed admissible. Contrasted with the fruit of the poisonous

Big Brother Watch Newsletter 08.01.10

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | Comments Off

Dear Supporter,


 


A happy new year from all at Big Brother Watch and we hope that you all had an enjoyable Christmas. As you may have seen, Big Brother Watch was very busy over the festive period, releasing our second major report and being featured regularly throughout the media. We intend to begin 2010 in exactly the same way we finished 2009 – with regular blogposts on the major stories in liberty and privacy each day on our website; with more research projects planned, exposing the worst excesses of our big brother state; and, most importantly of all, more stories from our supporters that give us the opportunity to take the fight directly to those in power and abusing their positions.


 


We’d like to give our sincere thanks to all those who were generous enough to donate to Big Brother Watch over the Christmas period – your kindness massively helps our research and media efforts and we really appreciate it. If you want to donate, or just get in touch, all the details are available on our website http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/


 


 


An Estimated 20,000 Council Officers in Britain Are Able to Enter Private Property Without a Warrant



On Monday 28th December 2009, Big Brother Watch released our second major piece of research, Barging In, revealing that there are at least 14,793 officers in 73 per cent of local councils in Britain who can enter private property without requiring a warrant or police escort.
 
Through Freedom of Information requests sent to every single local council in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Big Brother Watch arrived at a total figure for the number of environmental health technicians, anti-social behaviour officers, safety control inspectors and so on who, on 15th June 2009, if they so wished, could enter your private residence or place of work.
 
Top lines from the research (the full report including breakdown by local authority available here) include:

  • There are at least 14,793 officers in local councils nationwide who can enter private property without requiring a warrant or police officer escort
  • That is equal to 47 officers in every local authority in Britain able to enter homes and workplaces
  • Given that 115 (27 per cent) local councils either refused to answer our FOI requests, or failed to answer in an acceptable manner, this figure could be much higher and indeed be as high as 20,000 council officers in Britain
  • Northamptonshire County Council and Glasgow City Council have the most officers able to enter your home with almost 500 each

Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said:


“Once, a man’s home was his castle. Today the Big Brother state wants to inspect, regulate and standardise the inside of our homes. Councils are dishing out powers of entry to officers within their council for their own ease, without giving due thought to the public’s right to privacy and the potential for abuse. There needs to be a much closer eye kept on the number of officers granted the right to barge into private premises without a warrant.” 


Barging In generated some excellent media coverage in both the local and national news, and re-opened the debate on how much power we are comfortable with our local councils holding. As with Big Brother Is Watching our report into the growth of CCTV cameras in local authorities – we intend to conduct a yearly audit of councils and their uses of powers of entry. The full report, with full regional breakdown, is available to view by clicking here, so why not see how your own council fares?


 



Help us reinstate Albert


Yesterday on our website, we covered the story of Albert Stewart - the binman taken off his round of 34 years because he started picking up the rubbish residents had left beside their wheelie bins.


As we said in our piece, this is a sad indictment of Britain in 2010: A man who has committed no real offence, used his commonsense, done a little favour for families, and has actually helped foster a nicer environment in his area, is punished because the council has enforced pointless, pathetic rules designed to hit the law-abiding citizen in the pocket.


We need your help to get Albert reinstated on his old route. If you, like us, are appalled by West Lancashire Council’s actions, we urge you to send an angry email with your support for Albert to Pat Burgess, the council Refuse and Recycling Manager: [email protected]. Or if you would prefer to call and register your complaint, the number is: 01695 577177 ext.5432.
 

Top blogs since the last newsletter 

Crimes caught on CCTV fall by 70 per cent
 - six months after admitting that one crime is solved for every thousand CCTV cameras, and less than a month after Big Brother Watch releases a report questioning the effectiveness of CCTV, the Metropolitan Police announce that the proportion of all crimes solved using CCTV in London has fallen from half in 2003/4 to one in seven in 2008/9 – the pressure mounts…


 


Want your children to have school dinners? Surrender their fingerprints - Andrea Leadsom, Tory PPC for South Northamptonshire, writes about her dismay at finding out that schools are trying to gather pupil’s fingerprints as a replacement for Library cards and lunch money


 


Drogba, Robinho, Tevez and others find themselves carded - a bad day on the pitch for non-EU footballers, and off the pitch for the rest of us, as the ID card scheme takes another step towards implementation


 


 


A selection of our media coverage


 


Daily Telegraph – Number of crimes caught on CCTV falls by 70 per cent, Metropolitan Police admits



Evening Standard –
Huge drop in crimes solved by costly CCTV


Alexander Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s right to say that the experiment with CCTV has failed. They can’t have it both ways. Either the figures reflect a fall or they were wrong in the first place. Crimes that might have been solved by conventional methods go unsolved as a result.”


Daily Mail – The 20,000 snooper army: Vast number of town hall bureaucrats get power to enter your home without a warrant


Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, which carried out the research, said: ‘Once, a man’s home was his castle. Today, the Big Brother state wants to inspect, regulate and standardise the inside of our homes.


‘Councils are dishing out powers of entry to officers for their own ease, without giving due thought to the public’s right to privacy and the potential for abuse. There needs to be a much closer eye kept on the number of officers granted the right to barge into private premises without a warrant.’


Daily Telegraph - 20,000 council workers can enter homes without a warrant


The Sun – The Snoop Troop


Daily Express – 20,000 state snoopers who can walk into your homes


Daily Express – Debate: Has Britain become a Big Brother State?


South London Press – Wandsworth tops table of most CCTV cameras


Ipswich Evening Star – Councils ‘selling names and addresses’

Daily Telegraph – Police officers ‘prefer warmth of police station to catching criminals’ 


Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties campaign group, said: “There is a culture of laziness among many of today’s police. There is a common belief that police would rather chase targets than criminals.”


The Portsmouth News – You’re being watched…but do we really need 1,400 cameras?



Eastern Daily Press – We’re not a Big Brother state – claim

Southern Daily Echo – Southampton council accused over CCTV count


Lincolnshire Echo – Pressure group says CCTV violates rights


A full list of our media coverage for this month is available in our media archive here.

Businessman arrested in £12k police investigation for an email he didn’t write

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in DNA database | 7 Comments

Businessman arrested As reported by the Mail on Sunday, a businessman was recently arrested at home in front of his wife and 11 year-old son over an email which the council deemed offensive to gypsies.

The man, who has asked not to be named, had his DNA taken and was fingerprinted in a police investigation estimated to have cost up to £12,000.

The IT company chief was held in a police cell for four hours until it was established he had nothing to do with the email, which had actually been sent by one of his then co-workers, Mr Osmond.

As explained in the Mail,

The email, concerning a planning appeal by a gypsy, included the phrase: "It’s the 'do as you likey' attitude that I am against."

Council staff believed the email was offensive because ‘likey’ rhymes with the derogatory term ‘pikey’.

Sussex Police said they had arrested the businessman over ‘suspicion of committing a racial or religious-aggravated offence’.

Chief Inspector Heather Keating said: ‘Sussex Police have a legal duty to promote community cohesion and tackle unlawful discrimination.

Tellingly, the case was closed last week when Mr Osmond – the original sender - who had been arrested and bailed, was told there would be no further police action.

So, to summarise; a law-abiding citizen who was at home with his family is handcuffed, taken to a police station, had his DNA taken, and is held in a cell for an evening because of an email which a) he didn't send, b) had only a very tenuous implication of racism, and c) was eventually cleared of being racist in the slightest.

Not only that, the only actual offender in this case would appear to be the woman who erected a mobile home in a beauty spot without planning permission, which prompted the council to issue an enforcement notice in the first place. 

This case is an outrageous example of council's going after the easy target for spurious reasons, rather than broaching the real issue which might prove much harder to resolve.

On another note, I must also take issue with the comments of Chief Inspector of Sussex Police: "(we) have a legal duty to promote community cohesion". Wrong. The purpose of the police is to keep law and order.  

There ought to be punishment and investigations launched into how an innocent man was treated so appallingly, but instead it transpires that the police want to hold the businessman's DNA indefinitely. A shocking abuse of power which Big Brother Watch intends to fight from today.

By Dylan Sharpe

Meet the friendly new fingerprint hawking the ID card

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in ID cards | 6 Comments

Firstly, a massive hat-tip to The Register for alerting us to this story, and particular thanks to John Lettice for providing me with the gruesome evidence.

ID card logo If you're wondering who the strange looking fella' to the right is; he is the new face of/logo for the Identity and Passport Service's latest ID card marketing campaign.

The fact that he appears to be a fingerprint leaves Big Brother Watch in the strange position of not being sure whether to laugh or cry.

Relief, however, is at hand in the form of the video that accompanies our friendly little fingerprint's heavy-sell – click here to view.

By using a rip-off of Kubrick's Spartacus, the IPS has made the unfortunate, albeit hilarious, error of associating the use of ID cards with a film about a rebellious slave seeking to bring down an overbearing and wayward empire.

In the film, once identified, our eponymous hero is put to death by the aforementioned empire. So no downsides to that reference either.

Wonderful. Just, wonderful.

By Dylan Sharpe  

Outraged by Albert’s removal from his round? Contact the council and tell them what you think

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 12 Comments

Yesterday, Dylan wrote about the disgraceful way binman Albert Stewart has been treated by Ormskirk Council – moved from his route for picking up rubbish left beside bins, i.e. exercising a bit of common sense and doing his job well.

I've just written to the relevant Council Officer to express my displeasure, and I thought that you might wish to do so too:

Pat Burgess
Refuse and Recycling Manager
Tel: 01695 577177 ext.5432

[email protected]

By Alex Deane

**UPDATE**

The council has neglected to reply to my complaint, but is responding to that of others.  Supporters have kindly sent Big Brother Watch the council response, which is this:

Thank you for your concern. As you will appreciate,  I  am unable to speak about a private matter between the Council and one of its staff.  However, please do not believe what you read in the papers as Mr Stewart has not been sacked nor has he had any alterations made to his terms and conditions of employment. 

Hmm.  From conversations with people in the area, Big Brother Watch understands that what they did was punish him by stopping him from being on his route and allocating him willy-nilly on a day-by-day basis so he never knows where he's going or what he'll be doing. Moving someone's place of work – taking them away from the place they've known and loved for 30 years, where people know you and call out to you as you pass by, your friends, as Mr Stewart said himself - how's that for changing your terms and conditions?

RIPA and local councils, redux

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 5 Comments

Preston-CC As reported today over at the Lancashire Evening Post, RIPA laws are still being used by a Lancashire council to snoop on residents:

In the past year "static surveillance" including video was used five times by Preston Council to spy on families suspected of housing benefit fraud and to gain evidence of the "illegal dumping of waste" at a city supermarket.

We've written before about misuse of RIPA (when used to watch hedge trimming, for example) and it's great to see the LEP on the case.  Their story follows a Freedom of Information request they submitted after the Government announced plans last month to ban Town Halls from using intrusive techniques under RIPA for "trivial" offences such as school catchment area policing, "bin crimes" and dog fouling.

Local Liberal Democrat Councillor Bill Shannon, who has supported a motion calling on Preston Council to curb its use of this law, said:

"These powers are excessive and were brought in to counter terrorism.

"They should only be brought in for serious cases where the outcome is likely to lead to imprisonment and it seems none of these cases would result in terms of imprisonment. It surprises me."

Spot on.  I would also point out that those who are found to be innocent of all wrongdoing currently have no right to know that they were snooped on – if the subject (like the great Jenny Paton in Poole) finds out, it will often be by accident or by optional disclosure by the Council.  Big Brother Watch thinks that councils should have to tell you if you've been spied on when you've done nothing wrong.

Shannon also called on the council to release more information about when it is using the powers, adding: "We should know more and be able to say that these powers are only used in really serious cases." 

The LEP discovered that RIPA was authorised four times in 2009 by Preston Council to investigate possible housing benefit lasting eight days.  It was also used a further time for the entire month of June to monitor suspected fly-tipping at a Preston supermarket.

The LEP also reports that the five times RIPA was used by Preston last year

is a reduction on previous years. RIPA was used eight times in 2008, 26 times in 2007, on 34 occasions in 2006 and 23 times in 2005 – 96 times in the past five years.

RIPA powers were brought in nine years ago to help police combat serious crime and terrorism, but have been used by a range of public bodies to carry out more minor surveillance work.

Councils across the country have used the legislation nearly 10,000 times to carry out a range of spying.

Apparently, an attempt to limit its use at Preston Council was voted out by councillors in August 2008.  Whilst applauding those decent councillors who made that attempt, and lamenting the attitude of the majority who rejected it, Big Brother Watch would advise local councils to limit their use of RIPA powers in the face of clear public will on this issue – and urge voters to punish those who fail to do so.

By Alex Deane

Tired of watching homeowners, the council starts spying on its binmen

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 8 Comments

As reported by the Ormskirk Advertiser today:

A binman from Ormskirk says he has been taken off his round of 34 years as ‘punishment’ for taking waste left at the side of wheelie bins. Albert Stewart, 60, of Scarisbrick Street, works as a refuse collector for West Lancashire Borough Council.

He told the Advertiser: “I have done the same round in Aughton for over 30 years, and just because I took some side waste, I’m being punished – they’ve taken me off my round.

“They weren’t just people I took rubbish from – they were my friends too.”

Wheelie_bin Of course, according to West Lancashire Borough Council, binmen should only empty wheelie bins and must leave other rubbish dumped beside the bins behind. Therefore, Albert has committed a heinous violation.

And why, might we ask, do they enforce this law? Well, householders caught leaving rubbish outside wheelie bins can be fined an initial Fixed-Penalty Notice of £100, which if they refuse to pay can go up as high as £1,000.

This case is a sad indictment of Britain as we enter a new decade. A man who has committed no real offence, used his commonsense, done a little favour for families, and has actually helped foster a nicer environment in his area, is punished because the council has enforced pointless, pathetic rules designed to hit the law-abiding citizen in the pocket.

The state needs to take its nose out of our bins and its hands out of our pockets.

Big Brother Watch also wants to see the council reinstate Albert to his usual route as soon as possible.

By Dylan Sharpe 

Big Brother Watch Newsletter 18.12.09

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | Comments Off

Dear Supporter,

Merry Christmas from Big Brother Watch. Today we have released our first major report, Big Brother Is Watching (available for download in full at http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/cctvreport.pdf). Through Freedom of Information requests sent to every single local council in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Big Brother Watch has found that there are at least 59,753 CCTV cameras controlled by local councils in the UK – three times more than ten years ago.
 

The release of our report has prompted a number of people to get in touch and tell us their own local authority CCTV horror stories. We are developing some of these further and we hope to keep the debate about CCTV in the mainstream with these stories. As ever, if you hear of any cases of CCTV, or general Big Brother intrusion, please do contact us.



 


Local Council Controlled CCTV Cameras Treble in 10 Years


 


The Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera has become a ubiquitous feature on Britain’s streets. The most frequently quoted figure for the number of CCTV cameras in the UK (c.4 million) is based on a loose estimate generated by a walk taken down a single street over a decade ago. Whilst impossible to count the precise number of privately owned CCTV cameras, Big Brother Is Watching is the first report to bring together the various arguments against CCTV and place them alongside a definitive list of the number of CCTV cameras operated by Britain’s 428 local authorities.

You can download a full copy of the report by clicking here. We have full breakdowns by local council, so why not go on and see how your own local authority is performing?
 

As well as the lists of the number of CCTV cameras controlled, we also outline why CCTV requires more scrutiny under five broad categories:



1. CCTV has been viewed by those controlling expenditure as a cheap alternative to conventional policing, with no demonstrable equivalent success in reducing crime.


2. The efficacy of CCTV is open to challenge, with cameras regularly turned off, footage being deleted before it can be used and pictures of insufficient quality for court purposes.


3. Local authorities have spent an unprecedented amount of money to make the United Kingdom the most watched nation of people anywhere in the world. That amount of spending on CCTV is steadily increasing, with funds being diverted from conventional policing budgets to pay for the new technology.


4. CCTV serves as a placebo for many local authorities designed to appease neighbourhoods suffering from anti-social behaviour problems.



5. As the number of CCTV cameras increases, so does the potential number of people being watched and the number of council officers watching – with implications for personal privacy and data security (on which, take a look at this photograph taken by a supporter – a camera in Wandsworth pointing straight into somebody’s home).



Notwithstanding all of the expenditure on surveillance in our country to date, another wave of CCTV spending is now taking place despite the straitened economic climate. This is therefore an important time to debate these issues. Big Brother Watch intends to produce Big Brother Is Watching yearly to keep an annual check on the proliferation of CCTV cameras in the UK.



 


Blogs of the Week

Council of last week…Liverpool! – truly remarkable stuff from Liverpool City Council as they vote to oppose the introduction of ID cards in the city, saying that they will actively work with No2ID to educate their residents about the dangers of the Home Office behemoth



Once again, Wandsworth should be ashamed – on the day our CCTV report is released, a story breaks about a man who was fined after being caught on CCTV stopping for just 36 seconds. Who was he fined by? Wandsworth Council; who have the highest number of cameras in London with a whopping 1,113 and have the 8th highest number of cameras per head in the UK with over 4 for every 1000 residents

Private security groups move into frontline policing – an account of the worrying trend of private security firms taking over conventional policing. No checks and balances, no accountability, no guessing what happens next

 


Media Coverage


BBC News – Council CCTV cameras treble in 10 years


The number of council-operated CCTV cameras has nearly trebled in a decade, privacy campaigners say. There are now said to be 60,000 cameras run from town halls across the UK. Alex Deane, the director of Big Brother Watch, which carried out the survey, said: “The evidence for the ability of CCTV to deter or solve crimes is sketchy at best.”


The study, entitled Big Brother is Watching, found that 418 local authorities control 59,753 cameras. Ten years ago, a similar study found that the total was 21,000.  


The Times – Local councils ‘have trebled number of CCTV cameras in a decade’


Daily Mail – Council snoopers watch us on 60,000 CCTV cameras


Evening Standard – 8,000 CCTV cameras are watching you


Guardian – Britain’s wasteful mania for CCTV


Daily Mirror – 60,000 CCTV snoop cams


Daily Express – CCTV cameras ‘being used as cheap policing’


Daily Telegraph – CCTV cameras trebled in ten years


Sky News – ‘Big Brother’ Councils Treble CCTV Cameras


Southern Daily Echo – Full scale of council CCTV cameras in Hampshire revealed


Kettering Evening Telegraph – Growth of CCTV causes concerns


Express and Star – 1,500 CCTV cameras spying on our streets


The Herald – Fears CCTV cameras used as ‘cheap alternative’ to policing


Daily Mail – March of the wardens: Town hall ‘enforcers’ with police powers increase by a fifth in a year


Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch said: ‘This is little less than state-sanctioned vigilantism. It’s even worse than policing on the cheap, it’s policing without the checks and balances that we get with the actual police force.


‘Councils are completely unequipped to police the pretend policemen they are licensing. Even worse, the number of these officers is rising because councils want to send them out to collect the ludicrous fines for regulations we shouldn’t have imposed on us in the first place.’


Daily Express – Ed Balls to scale down Big Brother checks


Dylan Sharpe, campaign ­director of Big Brother Watch, said: “The Government has ­fostered an atmosphere in which children are taught not to trust adults and adults are afraid to be left with children.”


A full list of our media coverage for this week is available in our media archive here.

Public safety and public relations

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 1 Comment

Public bodies always play a tricky game when it comes to balancing the need to educate the public about their services, with the desire to promote their own worth.

Police officer Our colleagues at the TaxPayer's Alliance have done several studies into the uses and abuses of communications budgets and PR within the public sector, invariably concluding that state bodies rarely miss an opportunity to proclaim their own successes.

Nevertheless, the public ought to be able to expect to be told the truth by those who are paid through our taxes.

As reported by the Daily Mail this morning:

Police officers have been told to avoid talking about crime to members of the public – after Home Office chiefs found it 'upsets them', it can be revealed today.

The report, called Improving Public Confidence in the Police Service, states that when officers highlight crime and anti-social behaviour problems at community meetings it can lead to 'feelings of fear' among the public.

One officer from Thames Valley Police, who did not want to be named, said the report sounded like a 'bad joke'. ‘What the hell do they expect us to talk about at a public meeting? The price of tea in China or how much a pint of milk costs?' he said.

Community meetings are an invaluable way of airing problems in an area and getting proper 'face-time' with the relevant council members and police officers who are charged with protecting the public in a certain area.

For a central government document to be advocating bare-faced lying in the interests of protecting reputation is both immoral and dangerous. 

If the police are going to start refusing to recognise issues of anti-social behaviour and crime in a community, what hope is there that they will actually solve them?

By Dylan Sharpe

Drogba, Robinho, Tevez and others find themselves carded

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in ID cards | 2 Comments

A bad day on and off the pitch for non-EU footballers, who have found themselves the victims of retrospective justice, each picking up cards in the near future.

Red-card However it won't be a 3 match suspension facing Didier Drogba, Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor et al. No, this time they're being asked to give their fingerprints, a face-scan and personal details including their address and employment information.

The disciplinary committee on this occasion is not the FA or the Premier League, but instead our national government. And the card in question is, of course, the dreaded ID card.

As reported by the Evening Standard:

Foreign footballers face having to carry an identity card to prove who they are, it was announced today.

Professionals from outside the EU playing in the UK will have to apply for a card when they renew their visas, the Home Office said.

Currently holders of student and marriage visas are required to apply for a card when it expires. A total of 130,000 visas have been issued since the scheme was launched in November 2008.

But from today all skilled workers, as well as religious ministers and professional sportsmen and women, are included.

Dropping the football puns, there are three major problems here. The first, and most worrying, is that measures like this bring the ID card scheme closer to the government's orginal intention of full-scale implementation – something that must be avoided at all costs.

The second issue is the logic around making high profile figures provide such sensitive information. There is going to be a high premium for getting hold of the information and we know how leaky these databases can be.

Finally it needs to be asked: how much this is going to cost the UK taxpayer?

What is clear is that the ID card bandwagon shows no sign of slowing.

By Dylan Sharpe 

Arrested for having a “domestic”

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 2 Comments

I imagine everyone reading this has, at some point, had an argument with their partner.

People-shouting A toilet seat left up, an anniversary missed, a return to the marital home somewhat worse for wear; the reasons for a "domestic" are numerous and varied.

It begins with a shouting match but, if there's alcohol involved or late at night, a row can rapidly escalate into slammed doors and a night spent on the couch. 

In most cases a period of cooling off and a good night's sleep is enough to banish the bad feeling, and it's time to make up.

But in France, the Prime Minister Francois Fillon seems to think that there are wider consequences to be drawn from these arguments.

As reported by the Daily Telegraph:

Married couples could be arrested and charged for insulting each other under a new law in France banning 'psychological violence'.

It is expected to cover every kind of slur from repeated rude remarks about a partner's appearance, false allegations of infidelity and threats of physical violence.

The law would apply to husbands and wives, as well as cohabiting couples. Police are being urged to issue a caution in the first instance of a reported crime, but repeat offenders could face a fine, electronic tagging or jail.

Domestic violence is an abhorrent and truly awful crime, and those that commit acts of violence upon their partner deserve the maximum punishment befitting their actions. But a shouting match is not domestic violence - physical or psychological.

We have chosen to highlight this legislation from across the channel because it exemplifies the current vein of nanny statism that seeks to control everything from how we travel, to how we eat and now, seemingly, how we live and love.

Let us hope that the outcry naturally produced by a few high-profile cases brings this law tumbling down – the sooner the better. The last thing we need is our own government getting ideas.

By Dylan Sharpe