Defend civil liberties!

Submitted by on 22 July, 2002 - 10:08

By Lucy Clement

The Government has launched a new assault on civil liberties.

Home Secretary David Blunkett wants to scrap the double jeopardy rule, which stops people being tried twice for the same offence. And up to 10,000 defendants each year could lose the right to trial by jury.
Under the plan, prosecutors will be allowed to reveal defendants' previous convictions in court.

The Government proposals are a huge threat to basic civil rights.

They will widen the powers of police and courts to persecute innocent people by trying them twice for the same crime.

They will deny thousands the right to be judged by their peers in a jury trial.

And they will increase the ability of prosecuting lawyers to present a defendant - because of his or her previous convictions - as a "bad lot".

This is not the first attempt by the Government to restrict trial by jury - it has already been forced to drop the plan three times. The fact that it has now been brought back, albeit in a modified form, is evidence of the Government's determination to push the plans through.

Under this Labour government we have already seen a series of attacks on civil liberties.

Police have been given the right to read your emails on the basis of nothing more than suspicion, and without going to court for a warrant. Suspected football hooligans may have their passports confiscated on the word of the police - with no proof whatsoever that they have done or plan to do anything wrong. Legislation supposedly aimed at stopping terrorism means people can be detained indefinitely, without trial, until the Government decides otherwise.

Then there are the plans for ID cards (the name "entitlement cards" fools no-one), the curfews for kids and a series of extensions of police powers.

Socialists and trade unionists should not allow the Tories and Liberals to dominate the opposition to Blunkett's latest plans. They cannot be trusted to defend civil liberties - think about the anti-union laws! We need our own independent campaign to defend civil rights - and stop the inevitable miscarriages of justice that will be the consequences of the Government's plans.

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