Dame Stella [Rimington, ex-head of MI5,] accused ministers of interfering with people’s privacy and playing straight into the hands of terrorists.
“Since I have retired I feel more at liberty to be against certain decisions of the Government, especially the attempt to pass laws which interfere with people’s privacy,” Dame Stella said in an interview with a Spanish newspaper.
“It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state,” she said.
Dame Stella, 73, added: “The US has gone too far with Guantánamo and the tortures. MI5 does not do that. Furthermore it has achieved the opposite effect: there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification.” She said the British secret services were “no angels” but insisted they did not kill people.
In a further blow to ministers, an international study by lawyers and judges accused countries such as Britain and America of “actively undermining” the law through the measures they have introduced to counter terrorism.
Although I write as someone who has no particular axe to grind about the police, I am beginning to wonder whether we have a serious problem with a police force that believes it is entitled to monitor political activity. Set against the new law banning photographs of the police – which surely will be used by every policeman parked on a double yellow line or meting out the rough justice – there is increasing tendency of the police to photograph people in an aggressive fashion. It shows an innate lack of respect for the innocent citizen and the conventions of our free society, which is extremely disturbing.
Terror legislation has been increasingly used by this government, and sometimes brutally enforced by the police, to criminalise not only those who protest but also those who dare to give the oxygen of publicity to such dissent.
From Monday it will be an offence to elicit or attempt to elicit information about an individual who is or has been a member of the armed forces, intelligence services, or a police officer in Great Britain – it’s been an offence in Northern Ireland since 2000. It will also be an offence to publish such information.
The Association of Chief Police Officers was yesterday facing calls for a “fundamental review” of the way it works, after reports emerged that the independent organisation is raising millions of pounds through commercial activities.
Acpo, which advises the government on national policing policy and describes itself as “the voice of the police service”, was made a limited company in 1997, but has received £32m from the Home Office over the last two years.
I will be attending The Convention on Modern Liberty in London. Speakers include Douglas Carswell MP, Shami Chakrabarti, Nick Clegg MP, David Davis MP, Andrew Dismore MP, Edward Garnier QC MP, Dominic Grieve QC MP and Lord Goldsmith.
If you think the debate is insufficiently measured, I suggest watching this:
There may be a regional convention in your area: check here.