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Wednesday, 21 August 2013 00:00

Miranda's ordeal is part of a bigger picture

by Paul Donovan

The ever-more draconian anti-terror laws have nothing to do with policing

The detention of David Miranda under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act should surprise no-one. It is the logical conclusion of the evolution of anti-terror law in Britain over the past four decades.

This legislation has never really been about stopping terrorism but policing dissent.

Note that the Terrorism Act itself, extending detention under anti-terror law from seven to 14 days came in 2000, a time of unprecedented peace in Northern Ireland and pre-September 11 2001.

The boundaries of anti-terror law have been pushed and pushed since the introduction of the first Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in 1974, at the time of the Guildford and Birmingham pub bombings.

The justification for anti-terror laws shelters under what former chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police John Alderson called the cry of dictators everywhere, namely give me your liberties and I will give you security.

The stopping of thousands of mainly Irish people at ports and airports under the early PTA was documented by Paddy Hillyard in his excellent book Suspect Community.

The whole process though took on a new life after September 11 2001.

Draconian legislation was passed allowing detention without trial, then the use of control orders.

People were represented by special advocates with the accused and lawyers unable to see the evidence or even know what they were accused of.

It is against this ongoing process that Miranda's detention needs to be seen.

A police state has been building up in the shadows in this country for decades.

It has been regularly justified on the basis of the need to prevent terrorism, but in reality it has been all about stopping dissent of any kind.

So while in the early stages anti-terror policies focused on making suspect communities of first the Irish and then the Muslims, now its tentacles have stretched out to enmesh anti-arms protesters, journalists and others who dissent.

The level of acceptance of this state of affairs can be seen even with the latest incident, where despite the outrage over Miranda's detention, no-one seems to be concerned that 60,000-plus people a year are being stopped under this legislation.

What possible justification can there be for such action other than that of dictators everywhere - the great liberty/security "tradeoff."

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