David Anderson QC has published a weighty report on his review of terrorism legislation. At 379 pages, it's quite a read. But what I found fascinating is that he devotes a whole chapter to civil society. Chapter 12. It’s worth a read.
His general approach to our sector is very wise. It’s one that the Government would do well to heed, when they are wondering about the value of civil society campaigning. His words could almost have come out of ACEVO’s 2015 election manifesto, which highlighted the need for government to safeguard a ‘free society’, for the sake of informed public debate and good quality laws. He said:
“A wise legislator will proceed however on the basis that the legal framework governing investigatory powers must be sufficiently robust to satisfy not only those who are easily satisfied, but also those who are suspicious of government or who feel deeply any intrusions into their privacy.”
Or in other words, it is very dangerous if the expertise of civil society is ignored because the authorities find it unpalatable. On spying and counter-terrorism as much as on issues like homelessness and social care. When civil society speaks truth to power, as is our right and duty, it can be uncomfortable. But the law and our country is all the better for it. We must defend that right!
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