Civil Liberties Pledge 'Abandoned', Experts Say
The Government's promise to reverse the erosion of civil liberties and roll back state intrusion has been "unfulfilled, if not abandoned altogether", experts say.
Despite the Government's initial commitments, in reality their changes "have resulted in the police having greater, often summary and arbitrary powers over the individual and less accountability for their actions", the criminal justice experts warned.
And bringing in directly elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to replace police authorities from next year could lead to a "passing of the buck" between the commissioners and chief constables when concerns arise, they added.
Writing in Criminal Justice Matters, guest editors professors Lee Bridges and Ed Cape said: "It's as if the Government's commitment to 'fundamental human freedoms' is one that implies its own freedom from due process and the rule of law."
Changes to police use of stop and search powers, anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos), police bail, decision-making on charging, and legal aid have all given the police greater powers, the experts said in the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies magazine.
"One common denominator here is a weakening of the various mechanisms for holding the police to account in terms of their decision-making on stop and search, arrest and police bail, anti-social behaviour orders, and charging, and through active defence of the accused."
They also warned that the introduction of the PCCs will "open the police to even greater, populist 'law and order' demands".
Prof Bridges, a retired law lecturer at the University of Warwick, added it was "likely to lead to a fragmenting of accountability, allowing the Home Secretary to deny responsibility when concerns over police activities arise, shuffling them down to local level where there will be a 'passing of the buck' between police and crime commissioners, police and crime panels and chief constables".
The authors added that Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke's so-called rehabilitation revolution "has foundered, if not been blown away, in the wake of this summer's riots" and the tough sentences handed out to those involved.
"In many respects, the promise of radical reform has remained unfulfilled, if not abandoned altogether," the two editors wrote.