Friday, August 12, 2005

Thinking it over? That'll be 5 years.

Ten in court for 'shielding' July 21 suspects - the ten include the alleged bomber's wife, and sister-in-law ...but what exactly does the Times mean by "shielding" in this context? Or, more specifically, what do the crimes (of which most, if not all, of the ten are accused simultaneously of) of "failing to disclose information about [alleged attempted bomber] Mr Osman and ... assisting him in evading arrest" mean? And what of, well, friendship and love?

For a "definition" of the crimes, see section 39 of the Terrorism Act. The crime is "interfering" with relevant information, by which the bill means that if a person "falsifies it, conceals it, destroys it or disposes of it, or if he causes or permits another to do any of those things" then -blam- 5 years for you (if it's an conviction of indictment - 6 months if a summary conviction).

Now ask yourself the question... what would you do for the person you're closest to? Would you immediately shop them to the police? Chances are you'd probably spend a whole lot of time at least mulling it over, which in itself is plausibly illegal. By not saying anything, you are necessarily "concealing" information. Furthermore, anyone you seek to gain guidance from - a friend, a family member - is virally drawn into the net of illegality at the same time.

This is the spread of the wretchedness we've got ourselves into. Even when it's not your fault - when fate dumps a situation like this into your lap - the power to make your own decision about what to do about it has been completely removed. As with many aspecs of modern life, our responsibilities - to ourselves, and to the ones around us that make up our daily lives - are no longer ours. Now, however, this state-run morality has so much momentum that no-one even questions it any more.


Watching Them, Watching Us said...

"For a "definition" of the crimes, see section 39 of the Terrorism Act."

I was puzzled by the initial media reports of arrests under Section 38 of the Act.

"Financial information. 38. Schedule 6 (financial information) shall have effect."

which is meaningless if you try to apply it to an individual person.

However, it turns out that the Terrorism Act 2000 was amended by Section "117 Information about acts of terrorism" of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 portmanteau legislation, which was passed without proper scrutiny after the panic of September 11th 2001.

This inserted a "catch all" Section 38B
into the Terrorism Act 2000, which makes it a crime not to become a police informer, even on your relatives, where alleged terrorist activities are concerned.

Media fact checking - Section 38 or Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 ? - UPDATE: Section 38B was inserted by Section 117 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001

It is instructive how one "official" press statement gets repeated verbatim, without thought or analysis by the professional media.

Richard Veryard said...

In the latest Harry Potter book, a foolish youth gets sent to Azkaban prison for unwisely (and apparently unfoundedly) bragging about his connection with the Death Eaters.

As an engineer specializing in information, I am concerned about the vagueness of the concepts of "information" and "material" cited in this legislation.

So what counts as "information" for the purposes of the Act - unverified suspicion, unlikely boasts, rumour, casual speculation? In order to count as "information" rather than merely "data", doesn't it have to be processed and verified ("mulled over") before passing on? Indeed, doesn't an "informant" have a responsibility to apply some intelligence of her own before wasting police time with complete rubbish or irrelevant detail?

While there are sometimes clearly criminal acts of concealment (Maxine Carr springs to mind), it is absurd to suggest that every act of hesitation and every lack of diligence deserves equal censure. And I still find it hard to believe that this vagueness will be enforceable in the courts.