Wednesday May 16th 2007

The Adam Smith Institute today proposes a new body, composed of retired senior judges, to review that state of civil liberties in Britain following the recent spate of legislation.  In its Briefing Paper, Safeguarding Civil Liberties, the Institute itemizes how recent government acts have compromised or removed many of the legal protections traditionally enjoyed under common law.  These include habeas corpus, right to trial by jury, right to remain silent, freedom from double jeopardy, among many others.

The Institute proposes that a new judicial panel be established, independent of government, to review the effect of recent legislation on long-standing liberties, and to make recommendations as to how the impairment of liberties might be redressed.  While the body’s recommendations would not have the force of law, it is envisaged that it would be so prestigious that governments would find it impossible to ignore or sideline their pronouncements.

“The liberties review panel would sit, hear witnesses, evidence and argument, and would deliver interim reports on various aspects of our traditional liberties,” says the Briefing Paper, and “would establish the broad principles which apply, and under which newly proposed legislation could be challenged.”  It is proposed that the new body, in addition to reviewing recent legislation, would include within its remit any new legislative proposals which might compromise long-standing liberties.
 
76 percent support

A YouGov poll was commissioned to ascertain popular support for such a proposal.  People were asked “Would you support or oppose a proposal to establish a judicial body, tasked with reviewing the state of civil liberties in Britain, the effect on them of recent legislation, and authorized to make public recommendations of ways to safeguard them?” The results were overwhelmingly in favour.  Of those expressing an opinion (more than three-quarters of those polled) 76 percent were in favour of the initiative.*

The ASI makes it clear that this would not solve all the problems faced by our traditional liberties, but it would be a good step towards the restoration and entrenchment of the liberties which were once our birthright.

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