Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lord Bingham on Liberty and its diminution

Lord Bingham, Baron Bingham of Cornhill, was Lord Chief Justice and the Senior Law Lord, before his retirement in 2008.

These extracts are from an interview with Stephen Moss in the Guardian, 8th. February, 2010.

Bingham is .... forthright on the way in which the government is using the threat of terrorism to erode fundamental freedoms. He quotes with approval Benjamin Franklin's dictum that "he who would put security before liberty deserves neither"

Bingham believes we are getting the delicate balance between liberty and security wrong. "Liberty is losing out at the moment. Extraordinary inroads are being made into principles that would once have been regarded as completely inviolate, such as the growing practice of putting material before some decision-making tribunal or judge that the defendant never sees." He worries that the culture of the law, and indeed society, is changing. "When I talk to the young, I'm struck by how, even when they have impeccably liberal instincts on things like torture and the death penalty, they tend to make an exception for terrorists. They've grown up in a world post-9/11 in which terrorism has been seen as this colossally potent threat." The danger is real, but so is the threat to hard-won liberties.

Just before we met, the story that the police were considering the use of unmanned drones had been in the press. He is not a fan. "We are already plotted almost every single inch of our lives. I have a rather bolshie approach to this. Why is it necessary? I was going through customs at Heathrow the other day, presented a perfectly innocent British passport, the lady takes it and puts it into a machine to photograph it. I said to her, 'What –happens to the photograph you've just made?' She said, 'You're not allowed to know.' Why should the citizen not be allowed to know? We have a very noble tradition, and have to battle to protect our rights."

No comments: