Tuesday, May 29, 2007

English Police Baffled At Plan To Give Them Additional Powers

According to a leaked letter from the British counter-terrorism minister, Tony McNulty, to the prime minister, Tony Blair, plans are afoot to grant new powers to British police -- powers which the police themselves have not sought.

As the Guardian phrased it,
The new powers, contained in a leaked letter from the counter-terrorism minister, Tony McNulty, to Tony Blair, would make it an offence punishable with a £5,000 fine for a person to withhold their identity or refuse to answer questions.

The Home Office confirmed that the power would be included in a counterterrorism bill to be announced in early June
but the plans were
greeted with a barrage of criticism yesterday, after it emerged that senior police officers had neither requested the change nor been consulted
the idea was also attacked by MPs, civil liberties and Muslim groups as unnecessary and harmful.
My opinion? Score one for the counter-terrorism minister. The storm will blow over and eventually they'll do it anyway. Even though one
of the country's most senior police officers told the Guardian [...] "We've got adequate powers ... if you are stopped and say 'sod off' to a police officer, you're going to get nicked."
To which this very cold blogger can only reply: "Bush and Blair have told us all to 'sod off' more than once, on matters of the utmost importance, they should long ago have been stopped, and it is now high time they were nicked!

But no, let's enhance the powers of the police instead. ;-(
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said the proposed new power was unnecessary and would lead to people being stopped randomly.

"I have no doubt that [...] it will be completely counter-productive. I can't help but think this is more political gesturing [...]"

All criminal offences, however minor, are now arrestable and if someone is suspected of withholding information about terrorism that can also lead to an arrest, she said. "This new power doesn't fill a gap because there is no gap."

Under terrorism laws, police have powers to carry out searches without reasonable suspicion, under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Since September 11 2001, all of London has been declared by the home secretary as an area where such stops can be carried out, as are all railways and airports, and other sensitive urban areas which could be targeted.