Filming the fish in a kettle
When I was young we lived by the belief and principle that an Englishman in England is free to do anything he wishes provided that there is no law to the contrary. In those days it was true and meaningful. These days it is true and meaningless. The number of new statutes and limitations passed by parliament since my youth now makes it safer to simply assume it is illegal.
The principle has just been reiterated. In 2011 Susannah Mengehsa took part in a protest. She was caught in a police kettle operation. Before being released (without charge over anything), she had to identify herself with name address and date of birth, and submit to a search and filming. In other words, the police were building a database of protesters for no reason other than they were protesters.
The court has now decided that the kettling was lawful, but the information gathering and filming was not. Lord Justices Moses and Mr Justice Wyn Williams have ruled:
The absence of any statutory power to obtain identification in the circumstances in this case establishes conclusively the unlawfulness of the police action in requiring the claimant to be filmed and give her name and address and date of birth before she was released from containment.
In other words she was free to decline to provide information because there is no law saying she has to do so. The optimists among us are delighted, “The question must now be what action will be taken by the Metropolitan police to ensure this kind of issue does not continue to arise and this must involve meaningful sanctions for officers who act unlawfully,” said Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch.
There will be no sanctions and the police need do nothing at all – just wait for the muppets of parliament to pass a new law saying they were right all along; and that they are entitled to gather personal information from uncharged innocent citizens.