Writers have always been a big part of Liberty. Since our very inception, as the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) in 1934, they’ve played a key role in our fight to protect civil liberties and promote human rights in Britain.
Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) mark their first year in office today but any celebrations are likely to be muted. With the anniversary comes evidence suggesting extremely limited public support or awareness for PCCs.
As feared, yesterday’s “grilling” consisted of friendly and open-ended questions – resulting in few specific answers and barely anything not already on the public record. These public servants have presided over blanket surveillance of the entire population without public, parliamentary or democratic mandate. But Parliament’s response yesterday was woeful. There was also an odd, circular feel to proceedings with questions about accountability met by repeated statements about oversight by the Committee – despite the fact that little of substance was discussed.
The battle to protect British justice continues and on Friday we submitted our consultation responses to the Ministry of Justice on reforms to both legal aid and Judicial Review. Both are central to our justice system, ensuring that all of us – and not just the Government and the super-rich - have recourse to the protection of the law.
It seems like common sense – of course vulnerable elderly people in care homes should have their human rights fully enshrined in law. If there was ever any doubt about this, serious scandals in care homes in the last few years have forcefully underlined it.
Remember the film Witness – Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis tentatively dancing to Sam Cooke’s song “Don’t know much about history” in a barn? The 1980s film drew attention to the Amish, a Christian community which shuns modern technology; preferring to ride around in horse-drawn buggies rather than petrol-guzzling cars.
Last week a Policy Exchange report dramatically declared that the law is increasingly impeding our military's ability to operate effectively on the battlefield. This poses a “mortal threat” to the “culture and ethos” of our Armed Forces, it argued – risking “paralysing” service personnel. The report suggested young officers have a tough enough job without worrying about judges one day measuring their actions against human rights ideals. The message was simple – don't tell us how to do our jobs and don't ask questions when things go wrong. A familiar one for Sue Smith, whose son Private Phillip Hewett was killed when a bomb tore through his Snatch Land Rover in Iraq. During her fight for justice she was told "better people" than her were making decisions and to "leave it to the professionals".
After “racist van” and hot on the heels of the Immigration Bill, the Home Office and UK Border Agency have come under fire for telling people to leave the country via text – including anti-racism campaigners and immigration advisers!
In the UK the Human Rights Act protects everybody – old and young; rich and poor; you and me. Regrettably, some sections of the press don’t seem to like that very much. Worse still, they ignore important facts to mislead us and attack our proud human rights framework.