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Hell in a handcart

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve woken up inside a bad dystopian novel

This can’t be true… can it?

People who even think about going for a drink face being banned from their town centre for up to two days under wideranging new police powers. Potential trouble-makers can be asked to move on and stay away – even if they have not touched a drop of alcohol.

Well-behaved people who refuse to stop drinking can also be targeted.

The banning orders – called ‘directions to leave’ – can last for 48 hours and any breach can be punished with a fine of up to £2,500.

Fingerprints and DNA samples will be taken.

Police can act against someone for doing nothing more illegal than looking like they might cause alcoholrelated disorder, whether they have started drinking or not.

[Via Fark]

27 replies on “Sometimes I wonder if I’ve woken up inside a bad dystopian novel”

I’m still amazed at how unconcerned the middle classes are about all this 1984 stuff. They just continue to chant their mantra: “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear”, and if you raise concerns, you’re accused of being a smelly commie or, God forbid, one of “the civil liberties brigade”.

That’s what pisses me off. An “I’m Alright Jack” position is one thing, but this “we’re all alright Jack, and if you say otherwise, you’re a terrorist” attitude is appalling. And Civil Liberties are represented by a “brigade”? I mean, wtf? If and when the Government start mass suffocations, we’ll probably see right-wingers cheering it on and criticising protests by “the oxygen brigade”.

I’m still amazed at how unconcerned the middle classes are about all this 1984 stuff.

Yeah. I think a big part of it comes from the naive belief that everybody in power is nice, will always be nice, isn’t working to any agenda and isn’t utterly incompetent. So when tinfoil hat merchants like me said the terrorism laws would be abused, we were told “Don’t be so silly, dear”. And now, of course, the terrorism laws are used against nice anti-airport-expansion protesters.

It’s not just a british thing, of course. In the 60s the anti-war protesters were shocked to discover that the police weren’t always nice to people.

I’ve downloaded the text of the relevant law, btw, and while I can see the intention behind it it certainly does seem open enough to the usual mission creep. Under “directions to individuals who represent a risk of disorder” there’s a two stage test, which is:

(a) that the presence of the individual in that locality is likely, in all the
circumstances, to cause or to contribute to the occurrence of alcohol-
related crime or disorder in that locality, or to cause or to contribute to
a repetition or continuance there of such crime or disorder; and
(b) that the giving of a direction under this section to that individual is
necessary for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of
there being such crime or disorder in that locality during the period for
which the direction has effect or of there being a repetition or
continuance in that locality during that period of such crime or
disorder.

>>that the presence of the individual in that locality is likely, in all the
circumstances, to cause or to contribute to the occurrence of alcohol-
related crime or disorder in that locality

Lots of people get abused by pissed thugs for looking or sounding different. Does that mean that the police should arrest all goths, for example, as pissed neds might try and beat them up, as their dark world-view and unusual clothing may contribute to alcohol-related violence?

I still don’t understand why they need new laws rather than enforcing the ones we’ve already got.

The fingerprint things are two totally different things. The Glasgow one is a membership scheme. The other one is a crime-prevention scheme. The first is voluntary – either join the club or not. The other is either go out at all or not.

The first is voluntary

Just like ID cards will be!

The reason for the second link was the council compulsion – it’s not compulsory, but you might not get your licence renewed if you don’t do it. Given Glasgow council licensing board’s antics in the past, what are the odds against compulsory fingerprinting happening up here?

It’s not the fingerprints that worry me so much as the databases. Who keeps ’em? How can you be sure someone’s not nabbing the data? What if they get it wrong? Why do we need biometric ID in the first place? A cock-up or clone of a bank card can be solved by replacing a new card. You can’t exactly replace your fingers.

See also fingerprinting school kids before they can borrow library books. WTF’s wrong with a library card?

Anyway, leaving my tinfoil hat behind for a moment and back to the topic:

I still don’t understand why they need new laws rather than enforcing the ones we’ve already got.

Nor me. Given that we have laws against breach of the peace, against being drunk and disorderly, etc etc etc, what’s the problem here? As some columnist or blogger (sorry, can’t remember who) wrote about calls to raise the drinking age because of trouble with underage drinkers, what is the point of making something illegal slightly more illegal? The problem’s enforcement, not lack of legislation.

Slightly related: Years back, I visited The Garage nightclub (for my sins), only for my friend to be told he wasn’t being allowed entry.

“You’re not getting in” says the bouncer.
“Why not?” replied my friend.
“You look drunk”
“I haven’t even had one drink” (which was true)
“Well, you’re still not getting in, because you look like you have the potential to be drunk”.

I don’t understand why this government has to keep inventing new laws, none of which seem to be enforcible, or even if they are, won’t be enforced because most policemen seem to be drowning in paperwork. It seems somewhat ironic that new laws are introduced on an almost daily basis, yet crime seems to be going up (otherwise why do we need the new laws, hmm?) and criminals are either being let out early, or not even being sent to jail, because the jails are already too full.

An what is our problem with alcohol? In Spain, Alcohol is far cheaper than it is here, yet you don’t see gangs of teenagers roaming the streets, off their skulls on alcopops and cider.

Come on labour, stop blaming booze for all our problems, and look at the cause – lack of social responsibility and a complete absence of parental guidance.

>>yet you don’t see gangs of teenagers roaming the streets, off their skulls on alcopops and cider.

You do. Unfortunately they are all British. ;-)

>> An what is our problem with alcohol? In Spain, Alcohol is far cheaper than it is here, yet you don’t see gangs of teenagers roaming the streets, off their skulls on alcopops and cider.

Nail on head.

The problem in the UK is a social one, and not caused by alcohol.

The same argument could be used for the current discussions regarding sectarianism in football: football fans aren’t sectarian, idiots are, whether they’re sectarian in a football stadium or not.

Yay, let’s give the police more powers to do, um, the same as usual.

They’ll now be too busy annoying Joe Bloggs who *could* be drunk later on, rather than the 10-strong gang of drunken neds who terrorise anyone in their path.

Why don’t they just deal with the problems we’ve got than inventing “new” problems. Or would that require some actual policework.

Oh, and a second thing.

I couldn’t agree more with the point about replacing bank cards vs fingerprints. I bet the punishment for misusing this information isn’t very hard or enforced.

It’s actually worse than you think:

In this section “public place” means—

(a) a highway; or

(b) any place to which at the material time the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission;

and for this purpose “place” includes a place on a means of transport.

This means that someone can be banned from your car or your front room: even if you have expçicity given them permission to enter.

Great, eh?

Erm, have I missed something, or aren’t all the people commenting here, who are concerned about this, middle-class?

It’s not the middle classes who aren’t concerned. It’s the majority.

The moral of the story – if you’re abused then under no circumstances get help as they will hold it against you for the rest of your life.

That is so depressing. I thought it was going to be one of those articles that start with the “oh my gosh” headline, but becomes more reasonable as it progresses and at the end you realise that it what is happening isn’t that bad. In this case it just got worse the more you read.

I’m not particularly surprised. The courts and social services routinely deprive children of a parent in divorce cases, so why shouldn’t they apply their “expertise” in new fields?

“This is just the latest in a long line of pointless Government gimmicks”. Er, no, it isn’t. It is just another excuse for the police to get you onto their DNA database.

Ten years ago I probably would have checked myself into an asylum if I wrote “we are sleepwalking into a police state”. I am very depressed by the way things are going. Britain is a classic case of a liberal state throwing away a culture they think of as repressive, and then when chaos ensues resorting to authoritarianism or fascism.

What’s really depressing about all of it is that you can see the intention behind it, and it’s usually good intention (insert “road to hell is paved…” quote here). But the problem is that those good intentions tend to be surrounded with real naivety. So you can see the reason why banning orders seem like a good idea, but you need to be pretty naive if you can’t see how that can be abused. You can see the reason why getting more people on the DNA database can be a good idea, but you need to be pretty naive to expect the information to be accurate or not to expect people being dragged into things again and again. Etc.

Secret courts taking kids away from their parents are a good example of that. If nobody in the chain is an idiot then you can see the good intention behind it, but all it takes is one or two incompetents and you’ve got something that makes Kafka seem like an optimist. See also the satanic abuse scandals, as detailed ad nauseam in Private Eye. A good idea gets corrupted by loonballs and innocent people suffer.

By “incompetents” in that last paragraph I meant to include “credulous idiots” and “power-crazed loons”, btw.

> Secret courts taking kids away from their parents are a good example of that. If nobody in the chain is an idiot then you can see the good intention behind it, but all it takes is one or two incompetents and you’ve got something that makes Kafka seem like an optimist.

I reckon whichever shower of idiots introduced secrecy in the children’s courts probably did weigh up the relative merits of secrecy and bad decisions, but did so considering the proportion of bad decisions then on the books, without considering that that proportion would increase dramatically once secrecy was established.

“Erm, have I missed something, or aren’t all the people commenting here, who are concerned about this, middle-class? ”

Is that directed at my original point? I should explain:
The middle class are the kind of people who *should* be complaining about this Police State stuff, as they have the education, media access and leisure time that the working class generally don’t, barring the odd geek autodidact.

However, a lot of middle-class people I’ve spoken to online about this (usual caveats about anecdotal evidence), far from being up in arms, are generally supportive of increased police powers and new laws. As I’ve said above, they fall back on the old “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear” chestnut, and appear to have an unshakeable faith in the Government’s ability to “do the right thing”. What’s worse is that, if one raises concerns, it leads to accusations of being some kind of lefty troublemaker – one of “the civil liberties brigade”. We’re not talking apolitical here, we’re talking anti-political.

Part of what seemed to piss these people off was not just that some ‘hippies’ and ‘Trots’ believe we’re moving towards a police state, but that their imagined ideology-free field of vision should be polluted with such ideas, that someone might taint their guilt-free consumption of culture by introducing cold, ugly reality. that someone should bring politics (bo-ring!) up at all when more pressing matters like funny photoshopped pictures or clips of old kids TV on YouTube. It’s symptomatic of the anti-intellectual ‘permissive narcissism’ that’s turning reasonably intelligent people into socially pliable drones.

Or “keep supplying me with new and improved consumer product, and you can arrest all the d4rkies you want”.

“It’s not the middle classes who aren’t concerned. It’s the majority.”

Don’t confuse ignorance with lack of concern.

> The middle class are the kind of people who *should* be complaining about this Police State stuff

“The middle class” is a catch-all phrase for a huge section of society, encompassing pretty much the full range of politics. I would hope that, in any healthy society, there is no single thing that the middle class should believe. They should disagree with each other.

> a lot of middle-class people I’ve spoken to online about this

Insert belief here. Most people are middle-class, so this is hardly surprising. Both Labour and the Tories, for instance, have policies predominantly designed by and aimed at middle-class people, so a lot of middle-class people you speak to will support the Government while a lot of middle-class people you speak to will oppose them. It’s not their middle-classness that’s the issue: it’s their Labourness or their Toriness. It makes little more sense to blame the middle classes for this mess than it does to blame the British — yes, those to blame are British, but so what? So are those who oppose them.

The Telegraph is full of opposition to the police state, while containing a few writers who spout exactly the the-innocent-have-nothing-to-fear idiocy you mention. The Mail tends to support it except when it comes to social workers stealing children. The Guardian have helped to drive the creation of large parts of it, while vociferously opposing other bits. These are some of the collected opinions of the middle classes. I fail to see the unity that you think you’ve found.

> Part of what seemed to piss these people off was not just that some ‘hippies’ and ‘Trots’ believe we’re moving towards a police state

And most of those hippies and Trots are middle-class, too. So you have some middle-class people disagreeing with some other middle-class people.

> that someone should bring politics (bo-ring!) up at all when more pressing matters like funny photoshopped pictures or clips of old kids TV on YouTube.

I’m interested in politics, but there is more to life, and I too get pissed off if someone interrupts a perfectly good conversation about Fenella the Witch to start going on about the state.

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