From the Guardian, this article by Henry Porter ...
A retired senior police officer has expressed concern about the "sweeping power" that he claims is being abused on a daily basis in all of the 43 police forces. David Gilbertson, who was assistant inspector of constabulary until he retired in 2001, has joined the former head of MI5 and the former director of public prosecutions to express concern about the kind of state we are building in Britain. He has started a viral email campaign to ask people to sign a Number 10 petition against police powers to arrest any person for any offence.
He admits that the petition will probably "do little to stop the drift of this country to what has been described as 'Stasi state'" but nonetheless he asks "that you consider placing your signature at the petition – if only to see how the government responds to genuine concern from thoughtful citizens".
This is important and we should pay attention to what this eminently sensible man is saying. "For one and a half centuries, powers of arrest were linked to the fact that the offence was imprisonable," he told me. "Now you can be arrested for anything."
The change came in section 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, oddly enough the measure that started me writing about civil liberties three years ago. For the first time in the history of policing in the UK it allowed anyone to be arrested for "any offence no matter how trivial and whether or not a power of arrest previously existed for that offence," says Gilbertson's email. "People can now be (and have been) arrested and detained under Section 110 for not wearing a seatbelt, dropping litter, shouting in the presence of a police officer, climbing a tree, and building a snowman."
He adds: "Whereas police officers used to have to justify every arrest and be aware of whether or not a particular piece of legislation gave them power, they no longer have to do so."
Section 110 was "tacked onto" the act after intensive lobbying from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), a private company which under New Labour has been increasingly bold in pushing its own agenda into law. Why was ACPO so keen to make every offence arrestable? Look no further than the DNA database. The more people the police arrest, the more profiles they could add to the database. Three years on the profiles of more than 7% of the population, including one million children, are on the DNA database. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in the Marper case that this infringes the right to privacy of innocent people but the government – typically lax about the human rights that it claims to champion – has yet to announce what it plans to do about these samples.
When I spoke to Gilberston, a former deputy assistant commissioner of the Met, he said that he was worried about his teenage son being arrested for no reason by his former colleagues. In his email, he writes: "I spent 35 years of my adult life in the police service and am appalled by what it has become, largely as a result of powers such as those granted under Section 110."
There is a tone of regret in his email but also a determination to restore some of the standards and respect that existed in the relations between the police and public. It is interesting how many people are beginning to think along these lines.
The email asking people to support his call for the repeal of 110 is reproduced below. If you want to help Gilbertson's cause, please copy, paste and circulate it to as many people as you can and of course sign the petition yourself. Let's see if we can make this one so big that they can't ignore it.
From: David Gilbertson
Sent: 04 March 2009 14:02
Subject: Excessive Powers of Arrest by Police - Petition to the Prime Minister
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
PLEASE READ ON, THIS IS NOT A 'SPAM' MESSAGE
Most people are unaware that in 2005 a fundamental change in police powers was quietly passed into law; a change that directly affects the life and liberty of you and every person in this country.
Section 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 was 'tacked onto' an otherwise acceptable piece of legislation and allows ANY police officer in England and Wales to arrest, (i.e. physically detain, handcuff and take to a police station for a DNA sample), ANY person, for ANY offence, no matter how trivial and whether or not a power of arrest previously existed for that offence. People can now be, (and have been), arrested and detained under Section 110 for not wearing a seatbelt; dropping litter; shouting in the presence of a police officer, climbing a tree, and building a snowman. Whereas police officers used to have to justify every arrest and be aware of whether or not a particular piece of legislation gave them power, they no longer have to do so. The power to deprive someone of their liberty should only be exercised in the most extreme circumstances, yet young and inexperienced police officers, (and soon, PCSO's), are being trained that arrest and detention of a suspect is the first option in most encounters with the public. This sweeping power is being roundly abused on a daily basis in all of the 43 police forces in this country and puts you, your wife, husband or partner, your children and your friends at risk of arbitrary action by the police.
I spent 35 years of my adult life in the Police Service and am appalled by what it has become, largely as a result of powers such as those granted under Section 110.
Petitioning the Prime Minister will probably do little to stop the drift of this country to what has been described as a 'Stasi State' but I would nonetheless ask that you consider placing your signature on the petition - if only to see how the government responds to genuine concern from thoughtful citizens.
If you are sympathetic to this project, please forward this message and link to other friends, colleagues or bodies concerned about civil liberties.
The link to the petition is below:
David Gilbertson QPM
(formerly Assistant Inspector of Constabulary
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary,
Home Office (retired 2001))
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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