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Freedom in the UK

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Introduction

When the Government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the Government, there is tyranny. - Thomas Jefferson So what are we, liberal or tyrannical? At first the obvious shout is Britain is by no means a tyrannical dictatorship. Yet lets look at some facts. We do not have the freedom to peaceful protest. The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 created a new offence which restricted the right to demonstrate within a kilometer of Parliament Square. The area itself is defined by a Statutory Instrument rather than the Act itself. Would-be protesters are required to give the police at least 24 hours notice in writing and if 'reasonably practicable', six days' notice in order to demonstrate outside their own Parliament. Failure to give this notice can result in protests being forbidden. Furthermore, the police may impose conditions on demonstrations and since there is no statutory definition of "demonstration", it is entirely at the police's discretion. The Government removed one of our most fundamental rights - the right to protest against those who rule us. Just three years earlier, Tony Blair had said 'when I pass protestors every day at Downing Street ... ...read more.

Middle

Let me turn now to our surveillance culture. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, commonly known as RIPA, regulated invasive surveillance activities through a framework of warrants and authorisations. The level of authorisation required differs. The Secretary of State has to issue a warrant for the interception of communications but directed surveillance (such as bugging), covert human intelligence (such as informants and undercover officers), and access to communications data (electronic records) can all be authorised by a senior figure within the organisation carrying out the surveillance. The bodies which can apply for each of these activities are set out through secondary legislation in 'RIPA orders'. When the Act was first past, only nine organisations (such as the police and security services) were allowed to invoke it but that number is now nearly 800 public bodies, including all councils. RIPA was an improvement on previous legislation as it did take a more rights-conscious approach to surveillance but it has frequently been badly used. When it was first introduced we were assured that it would be used for the investigation of serious crimes only but it has been routinely used to investigate minor offences. ...read more.

Conclusion

ContactPoint itself was created by a statutory instrument in 2007. It is estimated that it will cost �224 million to set up and �41 million a year to run. It will be accessible to at least 330,000 users, though the Government recently estimated that 480,000 people may have access. Every person under 18 in England will be given an identifying number and will have their name, address, gender, date of birth, parental details, health and education records, and any areas of concern about them stored on the database. It also allows the Secretary of State to specify further details to be stored as they wish. So are we still a liberally free nation? No. We are controlled and watched, mistrusted by our own government. The main problem is that we will get used to it. We will begin to think it has allways been like this. Then more freedoms will be lost, and then more. Eventually we will not even be a democratic nation, we already lack freedom of the press and freedom of speech. We lose more every year. Already this year we have lost the ability to photograph police officers (One professional photographer arrested for taking a photograph or Brighton pier while a police officer stood on the pier). Whats next? I dread to think. ...read more.

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