3 articles today (Jan 27 2003) to alert us to the march of Big Brother

Parents of Deepcut death soldier are bugged

Monday January 27, 2003 10:32 AM

The parents of a teenage soldier whose death at Deepcut Army barracks is at the centre of a police investigation, have found their home was being bugged.

Jim and Yvonne Collinson, who believe their son James was murdered, say listening equipment has been discovered in a lamp in their home by detectives.

The family say Surrey Police, who are investigating a series of mysterious deaths at the barracks near Camberley, had asked police in Scotland to scan the Collinson's Perth home.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mrs Collinson said: "It came about as a result of strange noises on our telephone line.

"I think Surrey Police initially thought we were imagining it and getting a bit paranoid until they started to hear it themselves.

"Their advice to me was that if we want to have a discussion that's not for anyone else to hear then we should basically switch the lamp off.

"Someone obviously thinks they have something to gain by listening to what we're up to and I wouldn't like to speculate who it is."




Road cameras raise arrests

Push to take number plate scanners nationwide

Alan Travis, home affairs editor
Monday January 27, 2003
The Guardian

A new generation of road surveillance cameras designed to help police intercept violent and serious criminals will lead to more than 200,000 extra arrests a year and significant reductions in car crime, Home Office ministers believe.

The digital cameras can capture individual number plates on video at the rate of 3,000 an hour, and cover three lanes of motorway traffic passing at 70mph.

The number plates are automatically checked against the police national computer and other databases. Any that match number plates of cars and lorries of interest to the police are immediately passed to dedicated intercept teams who stop the driver.

Short-term trial schemes of Project Laser are coming to an end in nine forces; early results have been impressive, with a 10-fold increase recorded in arrest rates among patrol officers, for robbery, drugs, burglary, and vehicle offences.

John Denham, the Home Office minister, believes that the nationwide adoption of this automatic number plate recognition scheme could prove a powerful tool to cut crime based on the strong link between those who drive while disqualified or in untaxed cars, and those who commit serious crimes.

"By denying criminals use of the road, the police will be better able to enforce the law, prevent crime and detect offenders," Mr Denham said. Ministers hope it will be a key means of hitting the government's target of cutting car crime by 30% by 2004.

But the Treasury appears unwilling to finance the #150m cost of the scheme. The police and the Home Office are now pressing the chancellor for permission for the scheme to be financed by extending fixed penalty fines to a wider range of motoring offences and by using the cameras to enforce collection of unpaid road tax and other motoring fines.

It is expected that four existing motoring offences - no MOT, no tax, failing to register a vehicle, and carrying illegal number plates - will all become punishable by a fixed penalty fine.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has estimated that if the extra revenue from the new fixed penalty fines could be used to finance the scheme, it would be self-funding and put 2,000 new officers on patrol and intercept duties. They also claim it could virtually eliminate all document-related vehicle crime.

"There is also clear evidence that, because the offenders are captured on video, which they can see, the vast majority plead guilty, resulting in shorter file presentation times, no requirement for officers to attend court, and less time from arrest to conviction," said an Acpo briefing paper on the scheme.

Two initial trials of Project Laser in the West Midlands and Northamptonshire raised the average arrest rates of individual police officers from 10 to 100 a year. In the West Midlands the 12-month trial led to 1,662 arrests, with 34 for robbery, 376 for theft, 27 for burglary, and 200 for drug offences.

On top of this, #500,000 of stolen property and 64 stolen vehicles were recovered, 600 defective vehicles were impounded, and 2,000 cases of car tax evasion reported.

In the year-long Northampton trial, which ran until April last year, a team of six officers made 665 arrests, including 210 disqualified drivers and traffic offenders, and 95 outstanding warrants.

Shorter six-month trials started in September in nine police forces including London, Manchester, Staffordshire, and West Yorkshire. The results will be used to determine whether ministers give the final go-ahead for the scheme's use nationwide.

The automatic number plate recognition systems can be used either linked to existing CCTV road monitoring systems or by using mobile units in police patrol vehicles.




Blair warning on rights treaty

Patrick Wintour, chief political correspondent
Monday January 27, 2003
The Guardian

Tony Blair yesterday held out the prospect of Britain withdrawing from its obligations under the European convention on human rights if its latest wave of asylum reforms failed to stem the flow of unfounded asylum seekers.

His policy flies in the face a of a commitment given by the home secretary, David Blunkett, to "stand up and be counted" by not derogating from the rights convention.

Mr Blair's suggestion comes ahead of a move by the Conservative party this week to rush out a tough asylum policy calling for derogation in the case of suspected security threats.

The Tories will also call for fixed numbers of refugees from countries, and blocks on all asylum seekers as they reach port unless they satisfy security checks.

The Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, also caused a storm by claiming "the vast majority" of asylum applications in Britain were unjustified.

The political climate surrounding asylum has been explosively recharged by the discovery that some of the alleged Islamist terrorists operating in Britain, including one former Taliban fighter, are asylum seekers.

The shadow home secretary, Oliver Letwin, has been demanding since the September 11 attack that Britain derogate from the European convention on human rights, to underline the right of Britain to deport failed asylum seekers if they represented a threat to national security.

He argues that article three of the convention, alongside the 1951 UN convention on asylum seekers, has made it far more difficult to deport anyone claiming well-founded fear of persecution in their own country.

Mr Letwin, rightwing thinktanks such as Civitas, and the Tory press have urged that Britain follow the example of France to enter a reservation allowing deportation in times of national emergency.

Speaking on BBC's Breakfast with Frost, Mr Blair said there was "absolutely no doubt at all we have to deal with this issue", describing the present situation as unacceptable.

He listed a range of measures just coming into force under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, but said: "If the measures don't work, then we will have to consider further measures, including fundamentally looking at the obligations we have under the convention on human rights."

Downing Street stressed it was confident that the new act could contain the problem, but derogation was something that could be considered.

In the Commons last Monday, Mr Blunkett said: "I want to make it clear that no country has derogated from article three, because no one could, nor has any country denounced the ECHR by leaving it altogther."

The Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes said: "It would be quite wrong to consider any more reduction in our international legal obligations. We have already pulled out of one of our European human rights obligations, to allow detention of people without trial, when no other European country has seen any need to do this."

Speaking before his party's policy launch, Mr Duncan Smith said: "The vast majority who are coming, are coming for reasons that are nothing to do with real political persecution. They are coming either for economic reasons or, as in a smaller number but a significant number now, for criminal or terrorist reasons."

The wider Tory asylum policy policy has caused divisions as the more liberal wing urges the leadership not to revert to hardline policies that secured William Hague his core vote at the election, but did nothing to broaden the party's appeal.

The government under the new act no longer provides state support to anyone if they claim asylum after they arrived in Britain. The policy is being challenged this month in the courts under the Human Rights Act.

Around 22,560 people applied for asylum in Britain in the third quarter of last year, a record for any three-month period, according to the Home Office. The largest contingent came from Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Somalia.