Thursday, 15 November 2007

Innocent until proven guilty? Not in the UK anymore it seems

I was channel hopping last night and I saw one of those ‘enforcement’ programs where they follow police and bailiffs.

One incident struck me. Liverpool police were trying out this piece of kit that appeared to combine an automated number plate recognition camera with a database, or databases.

A car registered on their system driven by a woman on the way to help arrange her mother’s birthday party, she had the cake and children with her.

This wonderful piece of kit flagged her up as uninsured, the last one had recently expired.

When they spoke to her she was adamant they had cover. Her husband had arranged it with a different insurer. What insurer? Could she prove it?, they asked. Not right there and thenshe couldn't.

There did not appear to be any doubt as to her identity. They knew where she lived. The vehicle had current tax and you can’t get that without insurance.

Given her strenuous and obviously sincere insistence that they had insurance the sensible thing would surely have been to ask her to produce her documents within seven days at a police station and let her go on the way to arrangeing the party.

Not these boys though. Maybe they were performing for the camera - maybe not.

The computer says No!

So I presume the presumption of the law of the land is no longer ‘innocent until proven guilty’, certainly not according to the Liverpool Police.

They turned her out of her vehicle together with her children and the cake and stuck big stickers all over the windscreens saying the vehicle was uninsured.

At the end of the program it was mentioned that she had been insured all along. Her husband had changed companies and the new details had not found it’s way onto the clearly inadequate database.

So here we have a perfectly law abiding person forbidden from lawfully going about her business, on the whim of a police officer with a discretion (and common sense) bypass, on the basis of an inadequate incomplete database.

Presumably causing her considerable inconvenience, stress, embarrassment and some expense. Her only 'crime' bing her husband changed insurance companies.

A database is not definitive proof someone is uninsured. She could and did easily prove she was insured given the opportunity, but surely it should be the job of the police to prove she was uninsured, not the other way round and their precious database did not and could not do that.

I remember thinking as I watched the segment unfold, that if the family had changed insurers the new details may have been slow finding their way onto the system. Why could the police officer not have worked that out.

More worryingly, one fears it is a taste of things to come. God help us all if New-Lab do introduce their precious Fascist ID cards and almost certainly unreliable (just like other systems they have introduced) database to go with it.

“Don’t have your ‘voluntary’ ID with you card? Can’t prove who you are then, can you? Must be an illegal immigrant. You’re nicked.”

2 comments:

Surreptitious Evil said...

Yup. Didn't see the programme but sounds like the way things are going up here. Like random breathalyser testing over the Christmas / New Year period.

Completely illegal yet trumpeted by Chief Constables Himmler and Heydrich. They are supposed to have a reasonable suspicion that you are (or have been) committing an offence to stop you. It being December is not enough. Now in its sixth year of official proclamation?

Phil A said...

Ten years ago the police would probably never have done something like that under those circumstances. If they had they would rightly have deserved to be the subject of a complaint.

Mind you this erosion of the right to silence is equally worrying in it’s legal implications. It seems the right to remain silent and the right not to incriminate oneself in the UK are no longer absolute rights.