Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Police and public safety.

It now looks like the raid that lead to the non-fatal shooting of a man on the June 2 in London was based on false information. For more see this Guardian article.

It is not surprising or worrying that the intelligence was wrong. What is worrying, however, is the police's belief that they cannot take 'risks' in protecting the public. One official is quoted for saying: "Intelligence is patchy. Even if it suggests a 5% likelihood of something nasty, we can't take that risk." By taking risks they apparently mean restraining from making armed raids into the homes of people they know are probably innocent.

The police feel that public safety has an "overriding priority". The question is: overriding what? Caution? Proportionality? Protection of innocent suspects?

Apparently innocent people like Jean Charles De Menezes and others who happen to come into the view of the police, are not part of the public the police feel they have to protect.


At 06 June, 2006 13:18, Blogger karlund said...

To me it seems like the is a general lack of "innocent until proven guilty" understanding in the UK. This is just one of the more scary (almost lethal) incidents.

I remember in the 80s reading that the Thatcher regime introduced a law, allowing police to stop parties and public assemblies on the basis of usage of repetitive music. The logic behind this law was that usually there would be drugs and antisocial behaviour in such places!!

I don't know if the law actually went through parliament, but it just shows that even at top level the guilty concept might de defined a bit loosely...

At 07 June, 2006 12:52, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

I think you are right that the police's attitude stems from a lack of consideration to the presumption of innocence, which is evident in the statements of government ministers and public officials. This is quite ironic as the English generally prides themselves with being the birthplace of freedom because of its Common Law tradition of Jury trial, Habeas Corpus etc.

In the last 30 years England has adopted a series a laws strengthening the powers of the police and restricting individual liberty. One of the most significant was the Criminal Justice and Public order Act 1994, which was introduced when Michael Howard was Home Secretary.

In this act the burden of proof for criminal liabilty was shifted towards the accused, by letting juries infer guilt from suspects refusing to speak when arrested or when accused at a trial.

Section 63 of the 1994 Act also gave the police powers to arrest "persons attending or preparing for a rave." A rave being defined as "a gathering on land in open air of 20 or more persons... at which amplified music is played during the night." Music is defined as including "sounds wholly or predominately characterised by the emission of succession of repetitive beats."

Besides being an example of the detailed way English statues are drafted, this act was probably was the culmination of the bills introduce in the 80's under Thatcher!

At 09 June, 2006 15:53, Blogger karlund said...

So it did go through!! Incredible.

Lets make an outdoor praise night, and see when the police shuts us down ;-)


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