August 5th, 2005

Terrorism is irrelevant

Due process? That's for liberals...

You may have seen this propogated elsewhere:

Blair's starting to openly drop human rights measures, and due process is under threat. This is not only a completely disproportionate reaction to the recent terrorist activities, but a direct threat to the concept that law should come from the courts rather than a politician's whim - something Labour have frequently been a bit too keen on.

There is a common perception that Liberals like making it difficult to punish the guilty. In truth, we like making it difficult to punish the innocent, by maintaining due process and the burden of proof. This can make it harder to punish the guilty, but not usually significantly so, and it is an accepted tenet of political theory that any free and fair society must raise significant safeguards against miscarriages of justice. The burden of proof is simply one of the prices that you pay for free and democratic societies.

Equally, laws that give "discretion" to government or Police agencies are profoundly undemocratic, and dangerous. The promise is always that the powers will never be used "in an unintended manner", but they invariably are (cf RIP, CJB), and (the point which their proponents always seem keen to miss) they can be misused against 'dissidents' as easily as against genuine threats.

The price of liberty is, as is frequently noted, eternal vigilance, against governments as much as against enemies - and liberties are always far more easily lost than regained.

(The price of Liberty, on the other hand, starts at 8 quid).