Draconian Destination

And one ought never to forget, either, that it is easier for governments to create laws and instruments that compromise civil liberties, than for them to be repealed or moderated subsequently – AC Grayling

The disproportionate power of the British state police in the North vis a vis civil society is an ominous phenomenon which if left unchecked can only have serious consequences for the citizens who live there. It would seem axiomatic that it is advantageous to the health of any society that it maintains an ability to monitor and subsequently curb, as the situation demands, the coercive powers of the state, for the very good reason that the citizens of that society are those most certain to be the victims of coercion. All societies would do well to remember the observation by David Mamet that:

Policemen so cherish their status as keepers of the peace and protectors of the public that they have occasionally been known to beat to death those citizens or groups who question that status.

Policing is necessary but not always good. Because policing has proven such a vital function to any society that humankind has yet constructed, its necessity must be firewalled from the danger of it becoming licence.

Since 2003 under the command of the then chief constable, Hugh Orde, and followed on in much more aggressive fashion by Matt Baggott, the PSNI has incessantly undermined both civil liberties and societal protections against the intrusive power of the British state. Often but not exclusively journalism has been the target of police infringement. Individual journalists and media corporations have had orders issued instructing them to hand over materials gathered in the course of news procurement. This in effect is an attempt by the British State to turn gatherers of news into procurers of evidence and in the process destroy the integrity of the media in the eyes of the public it must serve.

In addition the PSNI have moved to compel academia to perform the same odious task of evidence gathering by demanding that archived material pertaining to the history of the Northern conflict be handed over to British authorities. Academia will be corrupted if it succumbs and its ability to produce knowledge that society needs, but the State declares verboten, compromised.

Those that society looks to for legal protection from bad policing, members of the legal profession, have also found themselves on the receiving end of invasive policing. The PSNI has moved to blur the vital distinction between defence solicitors and the people they are employed to defend. By edict of the PSNI, defendant and defender are to meld into one – the accused. This makes it easier for the police to function in arbitrary fashion and target citizens for reasons other than genuine criminal investigation. 

Nor is the PSNI happy to limit its attacks to the traditional means of monitoring power. The more recent social phenomenon of citizen journalism is also under fire. A Facebook site, Crown Forces Watch, was forced to close down this year because it set itself the task of monitoring the repressive activities of the North’s British police force.  Yet as it turned out even by its own definition of illegality the PSNI has disclosed this week that no law was broken in the operation of the page on Facebook.

These examples suggest that the PSNI is seeking to function as a secret police in a society that can be monitored by the police but where societal monitoring of the police can be curbed or carried out only on police terms. It is a dangerous trend that is ultimately on course for one destination – a draconian one.


  1. Draconian destination? When did we ever leave the station?

    The Diplock system was 'discontinued' in July 2007 but Section 1 of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 allows for a “non-jury trial” in Northern Ireland. The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 details how the Director of Public Prosecutions can issue a certificate to have a jury removed from a trial.

    Former NI Secretary of State, Peter Hain has emphasized the vital significance of this issue when he argued:
    ... the jury remains a prime political target in the judicial system. For defendants in political trials it may provide the only real hope of securing justice.

    The dangers giving the PPS this unchangeable power are laid out in the blogg One law for one, no law for others which provides compelling evidence that the PPS 'doctored' evidence, see http://thepensivequill.am/2011/11/one-law-for-one-no-law-for-others.html

    While it is commonly known that the Right to Silence has been removed during interrogations prior to being charged with an offence, what most may not be aware is that the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008: Part 2: Post-charge questioning: allows for adverse inferences to be drawn from failure to mention anything sought “at any time after being charged with the offence”

    An obvious danger here would be that an astute Prosecutor need only ask an unexpected question and if the Defendant can answer then he/she is then depending upon that answer in their defence; thus the Court will then have discretion to draw an adverse inference or not.

    Salus populi suprema lex esto (Let the good of the people be the supreme law)

  2. So whats the difference between Baggott's PSNI and Hitler's SS. ?

  3. There is no difference between Baggott's, and by extension the British government's, PSNI and Hitler's SS.

  4. Mackers,
    it is certainly having serious consequences in the Massereene trial.
    The entire court scenario is unfolding like a comedy of errors.
    A vanishing and re-appearing latex tip. A policemen who cannot even remember being in the so-called getaway car and a forensic method which apparently lacks any scientific credence.
    Stamp out political policing! sounds good when the shinner chant it, just a pity they do not the will or the clout to enforce it.