Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Good evening, Citizen. Crime Blitz!

Time for an old-fashioned, ill-informed rant.

Is it just me, or has officialdom recently decided to take a much closer look at what everyone is doing? All in the laudable name of 'Security' and for the 'Prevention of Terrorism.'

In the UK there's talk of extending police powers of Stop 'n' Search. In my opinion and experience, such extended powers are completely superfluous. In the past I've been stopped in the street and had my bag rummaged through by a an officer of the police force service on the unlikely premiss that I'd been to a late-night drinking den. So what did he expect to find in the bag? Used beermats, perhaps? The phrase the Constable used in his explanation included "Just to check you're not carrying the Crown Jewels." I kid you not. I have been stopped numerous times while driving for abiding by the speed limit. Apparently, not breaking any laws looks suspiciously like trying not to attract attention because I've been drinking. I was once pulled over and had my motorcycle and all my driving documents inspected on 'suspicion of intending to visit a public house.' Perhaps the mere act of riding a motorbike constitutes 'going equipped to commit an offence.' This is only a small step from the offences in the Not The Nine O'Clock news sketch that included 'walking on the cracks in the pavement', 'loitering with intent to use a pedestrian crossing' and 'urinating in a public convenience'.

The so-called 'sus law' - arresting someone on suspicion that he was loitering with intent to commit an arrestable offence - were abandoned in the UK back in the early 1980s after it was noticed that something like 90% of all those arrested were from the same ethnic group. Nowadays it's a different group who'd likely get targeted. Whereas Col. Rupert ffarting-Loudleigh (Rtd.) might consider it "A dashed good idea, what!", I suspect one Mr Saeed Mohammed (a name picked at random and not targeted at any particular individual) might beg to differ. And all because of the 0.01% who comprise all of the potential troublemakers.

But if you've done no wrong, you have nothing to fear.

Personally, I'd rather not have my front door kicked in because of an anonymous tip-off that my flat was allegedly a drugs or a bomb factory. I'd rather not have to go through the whole indignity of arrest, fingerprints and mugshots before being advised that it was all a ghastly mistake and I'm free to go. I don't suppose for an instant that my non-criminal record would be deleted from the police files.

But if you've done no wrong, you have nothing to fear.

Any law-abiding citizen would presumably have no objection to having a CCTV camera installed in his bathroom or bedroom, wired to the local police station. As far as I know, it is not illegal to use the lavatory. Neither is it against the law to sleep with your spouse.

You have done no wrong; you have nothing to fear.

Fans of the 2000AD comic will doubtless recognise Judge Dredd's: "Good evening, Citizen. Crime Blitz!" after which the citizen's apartment is taken systematically to pieces by the Justice Department in a search for any evidence of illegal activity. If you look carefully enough, everyone is guilty of something. It was Cardinal Richelieu who once noted that "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." Although he presumably said it in French.

The danger is that we'll all accept the temporary removal of our rights to privacy in the name of National Security until, all of a sudden, we wake up one day to discover that in our doubleplusgood society these rights never existed.

Stolen from another forum: "Nineteen Eighty-Four is supposed to be a warning, not a bloody instruction manual."


LawfulGoodOfCowplain said...

Ah, Citizen Goat. Judge Huey here. You are guilty of the possession of caff and synthi caff, both of which are illegal. The Tech Judge is still analysing traces from your foodpaks to determine the existemce of sugar. You are also guilty of smoking outside The Smokatorium. You are guilty of slow driving. You are suspected of Jimping on several previous occasions: Barney is cross- checking files to establish the precise level of guilt. Photographic evidence exists of mutant features.

A cube is being prepared as we speak, expect a very long sentence.

Chris said...

You have committed the ghastly crime of having facial hair. As we all learned from Star Trek, this means you come from an evil mirror universe and are obviously guilty of something.

Gnomad said...

At least where I live no one tries to pretend it's a free society.

Some of these law and order fanatics and espousers of the "if you've done nothing wrong you've nothing to fear" types should try living out here before diminishing the rights of ordinary folks in the supposedly free world.

some examples:

During prayer time a man is forced out of his car and beaten for not attending mosque and was about to be dragged off somewhere when production of his Iqama (state id papers for ex-pats) showed that he was not a Muslim and therefore that he wasn't actually allowed to go to the mosque. He was just waiting to go to the shop (which was closed for prayers in accordance with local law). The poor man had no recourse in law for this assault because he "looked like a Muslim" and that entirely justified the actions of the mutawain, the religious police. As a side note prayer times change every day and its easy to get it wrong by a few minutes.

A man has been deported for assault (and so has lost his home and livelihood) and would have been imprisoned had it not been for the intervention of his embassy for stopping an assault on his wife. Apparently some nutter in a scruffy thobe had run up started beating the man's wife with a stick. The angry husband stepped in, of course, took the stick off the assailant and threatened him with it (notice, didn't actually hit him, just threatened) whereupon the assailant fled. The assailant returned with uniformed police officers and had the man arrested. It turns out that the assailant was a mutawa, and that he had beaten the woman because her ankles were showing beneath her abaya.

Mmmm, so the innocent have nothing to fear from draconic laws? I think not.

Gnomad said...

An afterthought;

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

Benjamin Franklin

El Casareño Ingles said...

Of course, JD doesn't come from Spain. There are plenty of criminal goats here, you see them jaywalking in the road every day.

trill42 said...

1984 and The Handmaids Tale (Atwood) are hands down the two most terrifying books I’ve read.
By the way, this precautionary discrimination has been around for a while, just less in-your-face. At the US border during a school trip, I was pulled off a full school bus, interrogated for over an hour, fingerprinted, photographed and made to sign several crazy forms before being allowed to get back on the bus, and this was in 1992.

littejimmy said...

You're hitting that nail squarely on the head, Mr. Goat. If you are arreseted in the UK, they take swabs of your saliva for DNA. Even if you are found to be totally innocent, the police can and will keep your DNA on file.

Anonymous said...

We've all done something wrong, at least by somebody's definition. I've been known to flash my ankles in public.

Found this item in today's Independent newspaper:

'Schools are to get the go-ahead to fingerprint pupils as young as five, in new measures to be approved by the Government.

Ministers will issue guidance telling schools they have the right to collect biometric data and install fingerprint scanners.

But the decision has angered opposition MPs who say collecting fingerprints from children will be a gift to identity thieves.

The guidance will say that personal data, including fingerprints and eyeball scans, can be collected from pupils and used to monitor attendance, so long as schools consult parents first and do not share the data with outside bodies.

Schools will be able to place fingerprint scanners at the entrances to classrooms, the school gates and even in cafeterias.

Fingerprint and eyeball scans would make it easy for schools to track children during the day, and tell if they are playing truant, or even what they have eaten for lunch.'


It seems to me people in the UK will now accept jut about any restrictions on their liberty!

Mike said...

Hurray to the video surveillance security camera. If not for them, we'll all be scared. And yeah, if you're not guilty, there's no need to freak out.


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