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Friday, May 14, 2010

Civil liberties rate in UK Coalition accord

Thanks to Bob Burton for a reference to the UK Coalition Government agreement  which includes:

10. Civil liberties

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

- A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.

- The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.

- Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.

- The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.

- Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.

- The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.

- The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.

- The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.

- Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.

- Further regulation of CCTV.

- Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.

- A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

Mark Bollard comments about the FOI and privacy related issues, and Media Spy  has this to say about likely defamation law reform:
Both parties agree that Britain’s libel laws are in need of an overhaul, with concerns that corporations and wealthy individuals have disproportionate power to use the courts to sue publishers and media outlets on the grounds of defamation, placing an undue burden of proof on the defendants. The laws led to what has been termed “libel tourism”, where foreign individuals and companies took advantage of Britain’s pro-claimant laws to sue the media. The coalition agreement pledges to initiate a “review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech”. The Conservatives’ election manifesto declared that the party would “review and reform libel laws to protect freedom of speech, reduce costs and discourage libel tourism”, while the Liberal Democrats went further by proposing the implementation of the so-called “Reynolds defence“, giving journalists the ability to use the public interest to justify investigations even if they are unable to prove conclusively that their findings are true.

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