‘Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.’
Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting in Olmstead v. United States, 277 US 479 (1928)
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The Home Office reports there were 50,000 racially or religiously motivated hate crimes in the UK in 2005 alone and an estimated total o f260,000 reported and unreported incidences of such hate crime . In the recent debates over the Racial and Religious Hatred Act (RRHA) 2006attention was drawn to the fact that one of the primary purposes of the legislation was varyingly described as ‘…exhorting the communities to respect each other’s different backgrounds.’ And ‘a pragmatic response to increasing interethnic tensions, ensuring that diverse groups can cohabit peacefully’ . What these dialogues highlight is the seriousness with which the legislature, reflecting at least a majority of society, views the deleterious effects of racism on social cohesion.
Undoubtedly many of the concerns about the fabric of our society are caused by concerns over recent geo-political events across the globe. In particular the publicity of the terrorist bodies that have carried outa number of attacks since the turn of the century in New York, Washington, Bali, Casablanca, Jakarta, Istanbul, Madrid and London have made certain races and religions, in particular Muslims, synonymous with violence and extremist activities. These fuel already pre-existent religious tendencies. However, in many ways the governments approach tithe issue of terrorism and its inherent links to an increase in interethnic tensions have been flawed.
A quick review of the anti-terror legislation passed since the Labour government came to power illustrates the point: The Terrorism Act 2000,Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, The Terrorism Act 2006 and Terrorism (Northern Ireland) Act2006. This doesn’t even include all the Statutory Instruments such as The Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 (Information) Order 2002, The Terrorism Act 2000 (Business in the Regulated Sector and Supervisory Authorities) Order 2003 and The Terrorism Act 2000 (Continuance of Patria) Order 2004 .
There has not been a year since the turn of the century when terrorism hasn’t been on the legislative agenda and the upshot has been an exponential growth in police powers stemming from this flurry of legislative activity. There was an extension of police powers by Part V of the Terrorism Act 2000, Part 10 of taint-terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ACSA) 2001, ss.5 and 8 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 and Part II of the Terrorism Act 2006.
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