It can be political suicide to criticise certain aspects of British life, the NHS, for example, is broadly off-limits, so are direct criticisms of the teachers and armed forces. So too are the Police. No party can ever be seen to be ‘soft on crime’, and accordingly we all support greater numbers of ‘bobbies on the beat’, demand that red tape is reduced, and, above all, we are all keen for a return for ‘traditional policing methods’. All this means one thing, more police powers, something which is contrary to my definition of Libertarian thinking.
Crime statistics are falling, so really then, should we not be reducing policing as it is doing its job? If a wound is healing, you do not apply more and more plasters do you? The standard argument against this position is based on the fear of crime returning, that deterrence is necessary. Julian Baggini, in his book “Welcome to Everytown’ makes the claim that statistically an officer will only ever see a crime in progress on the beat once every eight years, and furthermore, using numbers from the British Crime Survey, he also contends that greater police presence creates a higher fear of crime. If his analysis is correct, then the political will for more officers is misguided.
I have grave concerns about the rise in armed officers visible in the UK, and I do not welcome the use of Tasers. As a Libertarian, I object to the creation of the DNA database and the compulsory samples given by everyone arrested, even if they are released without charge or found innocent (a move that has no corresponding Act of Parliament). Nor do I think that every personal email, instant message or SMS should be accessed and held by the State.
While he was Justice Secretary (a very Orwellian sounding ministerial post), Kenneth Clarke planned that ‘Hate Crimes’ should carry higher custodial sentences than others. Whichever way one looks at it, the creation of a new level of criminality based upon ‘hatred’ is a direct attack on free speech, and will inevitably lead to an atmosphere of suspicion, and quite probably public denouncements. With the police force being prepared to infiltrate environmental pressure groups for years despite there being no evidence of criminality, it is likely that dossiers have already been compiled.
The reader might well scoff and say ‘that could never happen while we have a judiciary to oversee’. But here is my main point, the legal process is beginning more and more to bypass the courts. Police warnings, ASBOs, and on the-spot -fines are all handed down without any reference to the judiciary at all. Virtually every public body has the right to fine people (850,000 by HMRC last year for failing to submit a tax return by January 31st), punishments meted out without judicial oversight. ‘Anti-terrorist’ legislation has been used by local councils to see if bins are put out on the right day, and some even plan to use drones for ‘monitoring’ purposes, and crucially without the need for a warrant.
I am a Libertarian, and I believe that it is the responsibility of the State to uphold the rule of law. I am not soft on crime, but I am beginning to fear the State more than the threat of crime.