‘Tough on crime’ rhetoric in Britain

This video, recorded in Britain, says about itself:

Prison sentence for taking photos in UK

2 March, 2009, 09:22

A new law in the UK makes it an offence to take pictures of policemen or any other law enforcement officers. Civil libertarians say Gordon Brown’s Britain is becoming like George Orwell’s Big Brother state.

Want a photo with a smiling Bobby? You’d better think twice.

From now on anyone could be arrested for taking pictures of the police, the armed forces, or the intelligence services, which could be “useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.”

With policemen often present at newsworthy events like football matches, marches, processions and concerts, it becomes almost impossible for many people to simply do their job.

Justin Tallis, a freelance photographer, has already got in trouble with the police while covering a protest. He says the vagueness of the new law is an invitation for abuse.

“A police officer forcibly tried to remove my camera. He didn’t cite any anti-terror laws, he just didn’t like the fact I took his photograph. And we had a short scuffle,” he said. “Another time I was threatened with section 44 of the counter terrorism article, which is bizarre, I find, to use anti-terrorism laws to stop and search and threaten photographers.”

Even the Parliamentarians are outraged at the new law. Austin Mitchell, now a chairman of Parliamentary All-Party Photography Group, is putting together a protest to the Home Office.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous! It’s going to open a Pandora’s Box of officiousness! People are already being stopped for all kinds of trivial reasons,” he said. “I have even had people been stopped from taking a picture of the House of Commons because it could be a terrorist target. Now that could be said of anywhere!”

A person taking a photo, according to the new law, should have “a reasonable excuse for their action.” Many in Britain see this as a part of a larger, creeping assault on civil liberties in the name of terrorist prevention.

“There are lots of little assaults going on in Britain against human rights and civil liberties and the old traditional conventions of the British constitution,” said Henry Porter, organizer of the Convention on Modern Liberty. “Britain so quickly is moving into this state where the police are unanswerable and are given the power to arrest people and imprison them for five years for the fact that they’ve just taken a picture.”

The problem is certainly wider than that. With the stop and search policy, powers to arrest without warrant, fingerprint collection, the National DNA database of innocent people and the potential introduction of identity cards, Britain, say many, is heading towards a 21st century controlled state.

Even the former head of MI5, the British domestic intelligence service, Dame Stella Rimington, has recently warned the government of the dangers of creating a police state by exploiting fears over terrorism.

With over four million CCTV cameras in the UK – the largest number in the world per capita – the state is constantly monitoring everyone’s lives.

By making it illegal to let the lens turn on themselves, the police have left everyone wondering the old saying: “Who watches the watchmen?”

From British daily The Morning Star:

Hard-core rhetoric

(Monday 27 October 2008)

JUSTICE Secretary Jack Straw does himself no credit with his unjustifiable attack on what he calls the prison reform lobby.

He is as entitled as the next person to gripe about impenetrable jargon, but to imply that the “prison reform lobby” puts the interests of the criminals before the victims is so misleading as to put him on a par with right-wing columnist Richard Littlejohn.

Prison reformers do not accept the crackpot notion that “prison works.”

Nor do they believe that locking offenders up for ever-longer terms of imprisonment in even worse conditions will have the desired effect of persuading them not to offend in future.

As much as it may upset the knee-jerk “hang ’em and flog ’em” brigade, evidence compiled in this country and others shows clearly that tackling offenders’ personal problems offers more chance of success.

Britain already imprisons greater numbers of its citizens than almost any other developed country bar the US, with a high percentage of offenders returning to jail within a year of release.

Yet, instead of analysing why this is so and responding to the causes of this unacceptable situation, new Labour ministers play up to the mindless authoritarianism of right-wing newspaper editors and let us all know how “tough” they plan to be with criminals.

That’s why Mr Straw himself has claimed that US-style Titan prisons are the answer to the problem.

The only problem tackled by Titans will be that of the need for increased profitability faced by the construction and financial conglomerates that will build and operate the new prisons under new Labour’s inefficient and expensive private finance initiatives.

There would be no prison overcrowding problem if the government were to release those prisoners who have no place being there.

Many are people who would previously have been held in mental hospitals but who were transferred to underfinanced, inadequately staffed care-in-the-community arrangements.

Crises in their lives have been met by court appearances, jail sentences and the revolving-door existence of imprisonment, release and return to jail.

How dare politicians ignore the reality of this shameful situation and cover it up with authoritarian rhetoric.

Investing in education and training in prison, treating drug and alcohol-dependent people, helping ex-offenders into work and accommodation,

Providing back-up in the community for those whose mental illnesses can be treated by medication and giving the hard-pressed probation service the resources to check up on and assist former prisoners once they are released may not delight a right-wing tabloid headline writer, but they would be more effective in reducing crime.

Contrary to what Mr Straw’s advisers may say, victims of crime do not welcome hard-core ranting. They’ve heard it all before and they know that it doesn’t work. Its only uses are to sustain tabloid newspaper sales and politicians’ careers.

There are some people, especially those convicted of crimes of violence, for whom prison is the only safe place to keep them, but even these people can be rehabilitated if sufficient resources are deployed.

It is in the interests of the whole of society, including victims of crime, to change offenders’ behaviour and the situations that help to bring about a life of offending.

EXACTLY half a century ago, at 8am on August 13 1964, Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans were hanged — Evans at Strangeways, Manchester, Allen at Walton Prison, Liverpool. The two were the last men to hang in Britain. The following year the death penalty was abolished: here.

US prisons: here.

2 thoughts on “‘Tough on crime’ rhetoric in Britain

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