OPEN UNIVERSITY SEPTEMBER 8, 2006
by Eric RauchwayThere's a fair bit of Blair pity among left, liberal and even libertarian Americans at the moment, but whatever his suffering at the Bush administration's hands, I cannot spare too much sympathy for this government that began to show--well before 9/11 or 7/7--indifference to, if not contempt for, the basic rights that are the best part of the legacy we share with our colonial progenitors.
The right to a jury trial is removed in complicated fraud cases and where there is a fear of jury tampering. The right not to be tried twice for the same offence--the law of double jeopardy--no longer exists. The presumption of innocence is compromised, especially in antisocial behaviour legislation, which also makes hearsay admissible as evidence. The right not to be punished unless a court decides that the law has been broken is removed in the system of control orders by which a terrorist suspect is prevented from moving about freely and using the phone and internet, without at any stage being allowed to hear the evidence against him--house arrest in all but name.
Freedom of speech is attacked by Section Five of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which preceded Blair's Government, but which is now being used to patrol opinion. In Oxford last year a 21-year-old graduate of Balliol College named Sam Brown drunkenly shouted in the direction of two mounted police officers, "Mate, you know your horse is gay. I hope you don't have a problem with that." He was given one of the new, on-the-spot fines--