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JAJoe
Armitage is Chairman of Medway Conservative Future and Deputy Chairman
(Political), Rochester East Conservatives. He’s also on a gap year interning
for a Conservative MP. Follow him on
 Twitter.

The
Government’s job is to protect its citizens, but there’s a line – and our
liberty does not outweigh the proposed overarching powers the Government (or at
least part of it) apparently now wants after the Woolwich killing.

So
regularly we are told to forsake a certain degree of our autonomy for
protection, but the reasons for state involvement evolve into something
entirely different from those originally proposed. Take CCTV: we were told upon
its introduction it would be used to catch perpetrators of violent crimes such
as murder or rape. Yet its use has evolved massively beyond that and is now
used to tackle the innocuous offences of disallowed parking and the discarding
of litter in public places. As CCTV is now used to generate revenue, it is no
wonder now that the United Kingdom has the highest number of CCTV cameras per
capita.


Another
example is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. It was originally
intended to stamp out national security threats or prevent disorder that could
potentially damage the “public health”. It has now evolved into catching those
apparently insidious parents who fabricate their address to ensure they are in
the catchment area of a decent school. These pernicious parents wanting the
best for their children are damaging the public health, or so we are told. It
also transpires “national security” constitutes the monitoring of potential dog
fowlers and litter droppers – again, both innocuous and civil crimes being
intrusively tackled on the back of a law intended for serious criminality.

We
then have the Malicious Communications Act, originally intended in 1988 to cop
those causing serious distress to an individual to the degree that they felt
their life, or the life of somebody they were close to, was in danger. It is
now increasingly being used to punish those who have caused offence to others,
such as jocularly purporting to want to blow up an airport for delays, or
wearing a t-shirt with profanity written on it. Causing offence is naturally
undesirable and some things said by individuals are abhorrent and obscene but
to incarcerate those who descent from social normality is nothing but
curtailment of free speech.

We
now move to the latest apparent preventer of serious crime: the Communications
Data Bill. The excuse for this all-encompassing piece of legislation is that it
will prevent the grooming of children by paedophiles, and terrorists plotting
to destroy our nation online. Sounds like an admirable cause, who wouldn’t want
to catch the monsters who killed Drummer Lee? However, the word “paedophile” is
not mentioned a single time in the 37,694 word Communications Data Bill and the
words “terrorist” or “terrorism” are mentioned a mere 15 times. Yet we are told
this Bill is about protecting people’s lives. It sounds to me a lot like the
legislation aforementioned, introduced to tackle serious crime only to evolve
into something entirely different soon after.

In
years to come I would not be remotely surprised if the Communications Data Act
is used to stamp out the illegal downloading of music, or the regulation of
individuals watching particularly explicit pornography, both acts that are
anodyne in comparison to the things the Bill is apparently going to be used to
prevent.

It
seems the Government, or its advisers have a flagrant disregard for due process
and just cause, and desperately seek as much control as feasibly possible.
Intelligence services are already able to obtain an individual’s electronic
communications on the proviso a judge grants a court order based on reasonable
ground of suspicion. Why then must we bow once more to a piece of legislation
that is destined to evolve into something wholly different from what it was
originally devised for? We really ought to have learnt by now not to trust the
state and their intrusive laws, for their proposed use widens rapidly upon
assent. The Government ought to be ashamed of itself if it uses the death of
Drummer Lee to further its cause.

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