Five ways the State has taken away our rights

Timothy Sykes,

Since September 11th 2001, the dreadful day when the world changed forever, the issue of national security and protection from terrorism has been one of the chief concerns of the British state. In the past, security whilst important was not the thing that was always worrying the state. The question of terrorism alerts and the chances of being blown up and killed were only a remote possibility. For someone like me, only nine when it happened, that day will always be remembered as the day that the world got more serious and scarier. Before September 11th, Children were allowed to view inside the cockpit on flights and meet the Pilot. You did not see Police armed to the teeth with weaponry and in quite so large numbers as they so often are these days. Laws have been changed to take away basic rights in the name of our protection and safety.  The state says we have nothing to fear if we are innocent but that is just not the case. Who will protect us when the state makes that one move too far? These are just five ways that the government have taken away our rights whilst we just watched.


1. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005


This Act allowed for the hearing of evidence against anyone accused of terrorism offenses in secret. The potential for any evidence that is vital to the case that is obtained under torture is also a problem. Many court proceedings which before would have been held in full public view would be heard in private. The Court would appoint special advocates to represent both the crown and the defence would possibly effect the defendants right to a fair trial. This Act of Parliament also allowed for defendants to be placed on control orders without the need for court hearings. This meant that suspects, could be limited to House arrest and subjected to extremely strict rules regarding movement.  This limited the accused rights to use a mobile phone, or ability to reside in places other than the governments choosing. There was also a restriction on who the defendant could mix with and who they were allowed to talk to. They could be brought back to prison at any time. These limitations are similar to the Banning Orders issued by the South African Apartheid government when dealing with members of the ANC.


2. The Justice and Security Act 2013


This bill has extended the convention that information used by the security forces such as MI5 and MI6 should be heard in secret if there is a question of “National Security”. When there is material sensitive to the state, secret courts can be set up to try an individual without the need for a jury. The bill also allows for the withholding of evidence possibly vital to the case. Before, for these things to apply the accused needed to be accused of terrorism charges and had to be agreed by a judge. The Act extends the withholding of evidence to all proceedings including civil. This was passed through almost in secret with little or no press coverage.




Britain has become a surveillance society and at the moment there are 4.2 million CCTV cameras in the UK. The United Kingdom is now one of the most watched countries in the world. It is rather uncomfortable thinking that the state can easily track your every movement and find out what you are doing. The idea that only the guilty should be worried about this is rubbish. The right to privacy had always been something that is enshrined in British Law. It is completely wrong for Journalists to do it so is it not just as wrong for the State to do it as well?


4. Terrorism Act 2000


This brought in the stop and search protocol. This is the right for the police to stop and search without any need for a warrant or any reason of suspicion at all. Consequently, this has the potential to be abused by police who stop people because of what they look like and not for any reason of national security. Before this, police could only detain people on reasonable suspicion and now it is because the police simply have the power too. Is this fair?


5.  Storing Information


Recently the government released a draft bill changing the law to make it legal for the government to store online information on everyone. Described as the Snooper’s Charter, this provided the government with yet more ability to delve into our private lives and store information all for the purpose of national security. However, there is some good news on this. The Liberal Democrats has said that the bill needs to be re-written and made more full proof so some rights will continue to exist. This bill, is not dead in the water, but it has gone for now. Keep your eyes peeled though for something that looks very similar in the upcoming queen’s speech.

There are many more examples of how the state has taken away our rights in recent years. These are just the most shocking and obvious examples. Recently press like the BBC have stayed silent during the debate before the Justice and Security Bill was passed. I do not question the need for extra security from terrorism, but these changes in the law and the extensive use of CCTV affects us all and we should all be concerned by it. The Liberal Democrats came into government promising to clean up the British state of human rights. As you can see, they have only made it a lot worse.


  1. I don’t see why 9/11 is the catalyst for so much legislation, there was terrorism before that. Before Al Kieda there was the RAF in Germany (the Baader Meinhoff group), the IRA on our own shores, and many others. Why then do people wait for terrorism to hit the US before they act? why is it so important to protect ourselves now that America is hit by terrorism when, in our own country, we have been effectively handling the IRA without problems for decades. I say it’s because the government sees an opportunity to use the terror inspired by others to effect political change. In my view, that makes them as bad as those who committed the acts of terror in the first place? I mean if I’m using the most literal definition of terrorist as “one who seeks to implement political change through the incitement of fear or terror” then many western governments are guilty of terrorism as well as some of our nations greatest “heroes” such as Oliver Cromwell, Richard the Lion-heart and Edward 1st. The history of terrorism is as long as the history of humanity, so to say it started with 9/11 is just ignorant. I sincerely hope that the Hypocrisy of a nation which claims to fight terrorism through the implementation of laws which give the potential for the use of torture in extracting confessions isn’t lost on people. I would laugh if I wasn’t so disgusted.


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