So we all know about the arrest of Jacqui Thompson the internet blogger who was filming a council in Carmarthenshire. She was arrested for breaching the peace officially but we all know that she was arrested for basically being a thorn in the mind of the council who didn’t want anyone from the public recording the shit they were shovelling (well that’s my PoV anyway).
Anyway we are waiting for the local plod to get back to The New Statesman’s David Allen Green over a story he is set to run on this episode. They are apparently having a meeting to discuss what they are going to tell him. So basically the truth is out of the window and they are wondering what cock n bull story they can concoct that will appease David and his readership. Again purely an opinion but if they were going for the truth then it wouldn’t need a meeting to discuss it.
Anyway whilst we wait David has tweeted and pointed us towards a blog by Alexander Smith describing how his newspaper broke the story and something in that piece was extremely disturbing:
We can’t have been on the steps longer than five minutes when four police officers led Mrs Thompson, in cuffs, round the side of the building, perhaps wanting to avoid the attention of the front steps? They didn’t see me coming, but I only managed to take one photo before the blonde officer grabbed my arm and tried to take the camera. I wriggled free and explained I was from the Journal. After showing my press pass I asked them what the arrest was for. One of the male officers replied: “That’s none of your business.”
Now my knowledge of the new Anti Terror Laws are not exactly what you called in depth but my understanding is that the new set of rules, under section 76 of the 2008 Act and section 58A of the 2000 Act, will target anyone who ‘elicits or attempts to elicit information about (members of armed forces or the police) which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.
So is a picture of an officer arresting a blogger for breach of the peace really going to stand up in court under that section of Anti Terror Laws? No it is not. No jury would ever convict. However they would be more likely to convict the police officer for attempted theft. She had no justification to attempt to seize that camera and she knew it. If she didn’t then she doesn’t know the law – and as police always tell us – ignorance is no defence when breaking the law.
The police in general though seem to either have a different law book to me or they quite simply do not understand that section of said law. Unless there is reasonable belief that a photograph could be used by terrorists then there is no justification or either seizing the camera or video camera let alone arresting people for doing so – which has happened on numerous occasions.
This is just another after illiberal law brought in under the past Labour government – which as I’ve said on numerous occasions did plenty of good things but they were as illiberal as any government seen in this country post-war. This law needs to be looked at by parliament and if the Lib Dems want to find something to change that won’t cause mass hysteria in the Tory backbenches then this is it. Anti Terror laws are ill conceived and leave a lot to be desired. When you are arresting people for non-terrorist acts under the guise of saving people from terrorism then the terrorists have won. This is not a police state but sometimes it feels as though that is exactly what we are.
So either the police need to learn the law and not hide behind Anti Terror laws that won’t stand up in court to bully and intimidate people trying to document what they are doing or the law needs to be changed.
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