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Protection of Freedoms Act landmark achievement in fight for civil liberties – Brake

May 2, 2012 3:34 PM
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

A landmark move to roll back Labour's surveillance state has today become law.

The Protection of Freedoms Act will:

· stop councils snooping

· end the storage of DNA of innocent people

· reduce the bureaucracy of CRB checks

· end 28-day detention

· stop schools deciding on their own to take fingerprints of children

· make stalking a criminal offence

· end wheel clamping on private land

· delete historical convictions for men who have had consensual gay sex with someone who was over 16

Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for this piece of legislation, proposing a "Freedom Bill" more than four years ago when Nick Clegg was the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman.

Commenting, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Policy Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equality, Tom Brake said:

"This is a milestone in the fight to claw back our civil liberties. Under the Labour government, our civil liberties were steadily eroded by an increasingly over-bearing security state.

"Liberal Democrats have done the right thing to clear up Labour's mess by ending these shameful practices with the Protection of Freedoms Act.

"The Coalition Government has already scrapped ID cards and destroyed the National Identity Register and is now making another leap forward with this Act to end Labour's surveillance state.

"The Act stops councils snooping, ends the storage of the DNA of innocent people, reduces the bureaucracy of CRB checks, curtails 28-day detention without charge and bans schools from taking children's fingerprints without parental permission."

The need for this Act

Up to 30% of schools in Britain have fingerprint technology and were allowed to use them without parental consent.

Britain has 1% of the world's population but a fifth of the world's CCTV cameras.

28 days is longest period of pre-charge detention of any comparable democracy, in the USA it is 2 days, in Ireland it is 7 days, in Canada 1 day and in Italy 4 days

The Home Office estimates 500,000 drivers every year are clamped on private land. The move is expected to save the public £55 million a year in fees to clamping firms.

Conservative Gosport Council in Hampshire admitted to using digital cameras and binoculars to spy on people walking their dogs, while Poole Borough Council in Dorset admitted to spying on a family for two weeks to find out if they were lying abut living in a school catchment area.

What the Act Does:

a) Ends the storage of DNA for people arrested and charged but not convicted of a minor offence and limits the length of time DNA can be stored for those charged but not convicted of a serious offence to three years

b) Requires parental consent before schools can obtain or use the fingerprints of children under the age of 18

c) Imposes stricter regulations on CCTV and number plate recognition

d) Restricts the use of Stop and Search to ensure it is only used where there is reasonable suspicion

e) Reduces the maximum period of pre-charge detention from 28 to 14 days

f) Restricts the use of CRB checks to those working with children and the vulnerable and allows checks to be transferred between jobs to cut down on needless bureaucracy

g) Deletes historical convictions for men who have had consensual gay sex with someone who was over 16

h) Protects the principle of trial by jury in complex fraud cases

i) Makes stalking a criminal offence

j) Ends wheel clamping on private land

k) Restricts the power of bailiffs to enter homes

l) Stops town halls snooping on people, checking their bins or school catchment area