Friday, February 11, 2011

Freedom Bill: common sense hits the Statute Book

A nice Friday surprise this morning - the announcement of the long awaited Freedom Bill, the much vaunted bonfire of those state invasions into our everyday lives that really aren't necessary.

You would think, wouldn't  you, that I'd have been delighted to see the last bit of the ID database being destroyed on BBC Breakfast this morning. I wasn't. Obviously I'm pleased that another Liberal Democrat promise has been kept, but my overwhelming feeling was one of being cheated. Labour wasted billions on something that was never going to be effective, was always a waste of time, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. They racked up the deficit even more for no good reason. Gee, thanks, Labour.

But back to the Bill in question. It applies to England and Wales, so not much in here for Scotland as the areas it covers are all devolved. It "steps up the government’s commitment to restore hard-won British liberties with an array of sweeping reforms that will put an end to the unnecessary scrutiny of law-abiding individuals".

These include:

  • a new code of practice for CCTV;
  • dumping the DNA of innocent people - Labour held on to a million people's DNA. For things like sexual offences, it'll be held indefinitely, but if you're innocent, it won't be;
  • related to that - no taking of fingerprints from kids without parental consent ;
  • forbidding council from over the top snooping to check people live in school catchment areas or put the right things in their bins;
  • wiping out convictions for consensual gay sex;
  • strengthened Freedom of Information legislation;
  • an end to unauthorised wheel clamping.
The real biggie for me as a mum is the end to this ridiculous, overly bureaucratic vetting and barring scheme which would have led to 9 million adults having to be subjected to needless checks, being presumed guilty until proven innocent. It was way over the top. I wrote about this at length when the idea was first brought in by Labour.  I am a worrier by nature and have to stop myself from wrapping my child up in cotton wool. Even I, though, could see the flaws in the proposals, how they would be unnecessarily intrusive, and would not have protected the victims of murderers like Ian Huntley. I'd like to see enhanced disclosure, the system we have up here, scaled back. It only shows that people haven't committed an offence, not that they won't.

All in all, a sensible package of measures and another welcome example of Liberal Democrat words being turned into Government action. One question, though. Nick Clegg had a big consultation in the Summer asking people for ideas for laws that could be repealed. A fair few of the suggestions (eg my husband's on fire extinguishers) just would look out of place in this Bill, but I wonder what's happening with them and if there are other ideas that will be brought into other bills in other areas in the future.


Winston Smith said...

" Nick Clegg had a big consultation in the Summer asking people for ideas for laws that could be repealed."
Sadly it will never happen Caron.
Like the time wasted debating the rights of prisoners to vote, our laws are now determined by the ECHR.
Even if parliament did defy the ECHR on prisoner voting etc it wouldn't put the ECHR up nor down. They would just keep fining us until we got back into line. Which we would do quietly in any case.
Oh and the march of the database is actually gathering pace in Scotland. Your kids are on numerous databases that you don't even know about. Their bio data is already stored and the 'generation Scotland' database is busily adding the adults.
Once the bio bank / generation scotland database is hacked and sold off then it's game over for personal privacy. Unless you get your dna/ date of birth/ genetic info etc.. replaced. Good luck with that.

Unknown said...

Yes. its great news. I can relate a personal incident where I rang up the Police to come and save ME from an abusive relationship (DV) When the Police arrived - my partner told them he was beating me because i left the kids home alone. The following year 2005, I did a CRB check even though I was not working with children.This incident was recorded on the CRB as any other information. I was livid - could not believe that my inviting the Police into my personal affair was now being used to my detriment. I wrote in to complain, but was told that it was their practice to include everyting. Though this bit on info disappeared when another CRB was done in 2006. The major concern rally is that there is wide spead mis-use of the requirement for CRB checks, this needs to be broadly emphasised to the wider public so that we can start challenging employers that delibrately want to pry into your life or are using this as a discriminatory tool against people seeking employment. the indiscriminate use of CRB must stop.

Anonymous said...

"wiping out convictions for consensual gay sex;"

Sadly the Bill will not do this. See my post here.

Hywel said...

@Gyronny - I'm not sure that's correct.

Clause 86(4) says:
"Any obligation imposed on any person by any enactment or rule of law or by the provisions of any agreement or arrangement to disclose any matters to any other person is not to extend to requiring the disclosure of a disregarded conviction or caution or any circumstances ancillary to it."

My reading of is that means that such convictions are designated as disregarded and there would be no obligation to disclose.

Your right about Scotland & Ireland but criminal law is a devolved matter (certainly to Scotland)


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