Sunday, 21 December 2008

Police State

Sometimes, it feels as if discussing the loss of our freedom is an abstruse intellectual activity. And then something happens in ones own life that makes you realise that we are not bonkers, that we are all, in fact, sleep- walking into an authoritarian society.

One of the many thousand new laws introduced recently was the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. This legislation was a response to a long and expensive campaign spearheaded by Encams (formerly Keep Britain Tidy and funded by the Department of the Environment) and supported by a host of other anti-smoking charities and quangos. All of these organisations were set up by government departments and all are publicly funded.

So the campaign to lobby for this legislation was sponsored by the government and paid for by the taxpayer. Why it is necessary to create a phony demand for legislation? Is it to create thousands of well paid "jobs" with which to reward party cronies and fellow travellers or is it to convince us that these are laws we really need?

Anyway, as a result of this Act, my eighteen year old son was hauled out of a shop in Liverpool by two PCSO's who accused him of stubbing out a cigarette in the gutter prior to entering the shop.
My son was obviously taken aback and explained he did not know that what he had done was against the law. He offered to pick up the cigarette end but was told that "it had gone too far for that" and was read his rights under the PACE regulations. He was offered the option of the offence being dealt with by way of a police caution which he accepted. Despite the fact that he was assured this would avoid the threat of prosecution, there followed a letter from Liverpool City Council environmental department demanding a £75 fixed penalty be paid, otherwise he was going to court.

So, for unknowingly breaking this new law, my son has been criminalised. The police caution will be recorded on a database and will be 'active' for three years. At the end of that time it will remain on the database for ever and will be disclosed to anyone undertaking an enhanced CRB check.

I recently had an interesting correspondence with my MP, Stephen Hesford, in which I outlined my reservations about new laws that encroached on our freedom and I will send him a link to this blog. I hope he will see fit to add a comment on whether or not he believes that what happened to my son was fair, reasonable and just.


Citizen Stuart said...

I keep thinking that there's nothing left that this messed-up regime can do to shock me, and then now and again I read a story like this. I thought things were getting bad under the Major government, but I couldn't have imagined an 18 year old kid being busted over a trivial incident like this. And the really nasty part is that this could follow your son through his life in ways that you might not anticipate. If he goes to American on holiday, for instance, Customs might not let him in because he's been arrested and cautioned - even for something as trivial as this.

pagar said...

Thanks for this Stuart.

I'm trying to get my son to take a libertarian stance and see if the state will actually lock him up for putting out a cigarette.

So far, he's sensibly resisting!!!!

Citizen Stuart said...

Admirable as your attempts to martyr your son may be, I think he's right to take the cautious approach! Now that he's had a taste of what the overbearing State can do to a harmless individual, maybe you can recruit him to the Libertarian Party instead?