DRACONIAN repressive measures are now being proposed, off the cuff, thick and fast, as the Blair government races to put an end to the British axiom of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ to adopt the maxim of the continental police state, ‘guilty until proven innocent’.
Stung by French government accusations that there are too many rights in Britain, whereas in France they start with the repressive power and the rights of the state, Blair is moving to adopt the methods of the French bourgeoisie.
Blair last week said: ‘We are already examining a new court procedure which would allow a pre-trial process.
‘We will also examine whether the necessary procedure can be brought about to give us a way of meeting the police and security service request that detention, pre-charge of terrorist suspects, be significantly extended.’
In France an investigative magistrate can hold a completely innocent man in custody for years, as he investigates the charges that are being made against him, with a view to establishing whether he should be prosecuted or not.
Such an innovation in Britain would give the police their 90 days or more, in place of the current 14 days that they can hold a person before they must either charge them or release them.
Yesterday the bourgeois media was full of the news that the government intends to establish secret pre-trial hearings, that is a secret trial before a trial.
At these hearings a security vetted judge will hear evidence, including telephone taps, that may be too sensitive for the suspect to hear, although it is possible that his security vetted lawyer may be allowed access, provided his client is kept in the dark.
On this basis the judge, without a jury being present, will decide that there is enough evidence for the suspect to face trial.
At this trial the jury will be told that it is virtually redundant, since the evidence that convicts the suspect is top secret and cannot be revealed to them, since this would incriminate valuable agents who are risking their lives, on a daily basis, for queen and country.
However, they will be told that the defence lawyer has seen such evidence and can vouch for its authenticity and damning nature.
The jury will therefore be faced with convicting on the basis of faith in the judiciary, or of refusing to take part in the charade, and therefore being in contempt of court, and guilty of ‘indirectly inciting terrorism’ into the bargain.
Since the second public trial, where the jury is required to convict blindfolded, would only cause extreme anger throughout the country, the likelihood is that the second trial will be in secret, or will be a no-jury trial, or that the second stage will be abandoned altogether as an embarrassment.
This would leave just the secret trial, before a security vetted judge, defence and prosecution lawyers, with the suspect required only to attend to hear the sentence.
In fact, this system is already being tried out.
‘We’ already have Special Immigrations Appeals Tribunals, which sit in secret and keep the details of charges from those facing them.
Defendants are represented by special advocates, who have access to the evidence but do not brief their ‘clients’ on the details. The latter are just informed that their appeals have failed.
The trade unions especially, should understand that there must be no return to the kind of penal code that sent their members to Van Diemens Land.
They must act to defend basic rights. They must call a general strike to bring the Blair government down!