Thursday, May 08, 2008

The end justifies the means!

How else is one to understand British home secretary Jacqui Smith's speech today's on anti-social behaviour?

Labour, in trouble according to the opinion polls, is trying to outflank the Tories by being tough on anti-social behaviour. The government apparently wants the police to harass badly behaving youths. This is to be done by "openly filming them, knocking on their doors, following them on the estate and repeatedly searching them", in short making "their lives as uncomfortable as possible."

I find the proposals shocking. The British government essentially wants to use the power of the state to harass and intimidate teenagers. I'm also puzzled why the government wants to introduce such draconian measures at a time when crime rates continues to fall. The government claims that the methods works. But when has that been a good argument for policies that, in my opinion, are contrary to fundamental human rights? A deliberate policy of filming, harassing and intimidating surely amounts to a violation of the right to respect of private life in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

All this leads me to conclude that, in the minds of British politicians, British society has broken down. How else to explain the extreme mearues that British authorities have adopted to maintain order and reduce fear:

- Surveillance camera's on almost every street corner.
- Anti-Social Behaviour Orders that allow the authorities to punish offenders without recourse to the criminal law.
- Extensive police powers to stop, search and arrest persons under ever wider anti-terrorism legislation.
- A deliberate and systematic policy of police harassment.

How did Britain get to this point? Is social breakdown in Britain really that bad, and are there really no better ways to deal with the percieve social problems?


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