Crime, Civil Liberties and the Law

Police Accountability
Advocacy for People in Police Custody
Security Forces
Peaceful Protest
Magistrates and Judges
Trial by Jury
Sentencing
Drugs
Individual and Group Rights

The Liberal Party condemns the continuing erosion of civil liberties, and believes that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) must be amended as soon as possible in order, at the very least, to remove such controversial matters as random stop and search powers for the Police. English law needs to be brought into line with that in Scotland, limiting detention without charge to 6 hours. Liberals believe that many of our present laws are archaic and must be replaced by new laws more suited to the needs of today.

In setting freedom first, Liberals champion the individual’s right to justice and we therefore call for:

  1. the repeal the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act;
  2. the reform of criminal and civil procedures to give adequate protection to the rights of the individual;
  3. Courts to be given the additional power to initiate further investigation.

In empowering the individual Liberals believe that it is central to a fair and just legal system that those who infringe the rights, freedoms and security of others should be shown the consequences of their actions. We will work to remove the causes of crime such as powerlessness, gross inequalities in wealth, social exclusion. We will seek to design out those features of our settlements which reduce positive community interaction such as dark corridors/paths, poor sight lines and unhindered motor traffic.

We reject “curfews” and “Zero tolerance” and will give power to communities so that they can develop mutual support through discussion, agreement making and mediation based on the understanding of each others needs. We want positive neighbourliness not neighbourhood watch. We value the roles of parents and will seek to develop their opportunities and self worth so that they are no longer defined as “unemployed” or “part-time” but can be positive role models for their children.

To these ends Liberals support greater investment in modern technology where this is consistent with civil liberties and increased use of civilian staff in order to release police officers’ time for criminal detection and prevention through greater activity in community life. It is only through the support and co-operation of local communities that policing can be truly effective. Liberals envisage a more devolved structure for police authorities with local police stations being accountable to the communities they serve and having sufficient autonomy to enable them to respond to the needs of those communities and enlist their support.

Police Accountability

We view with alarm the continuing failure of many police to recognise both the rights of the individual and the laws of the land. We condemn abuses of their power against those deemed “unpopular” and note that such abuses have led to harassment or miscarriages of justice.

Complaints about the police should not be investigated by other police officers. We need a truly independent police complaints organisation to hold the police force accountable to the community for its actions. Liberals would create a structure totally separate from the policy force to deal with complaints and discipline, with the authority to require police officers to undertake re-training, additional training and to dismiss officers from the service and/or to refer cases for criminal prosecution of officers (eg: for perverting the course of justice) if necessary. This body would need the legal authority and professional, independent staff to fully investigate complaints. Decisions about complaints, discipline and compensation should be made by an independent panel of lay people representing the community. All parties involved in the case should be allowed legal representation.

Police uniforms should be re-designed in order to make it easy for individual officers to be identified. We would also create rules for the conduct of searches.

Advocacy for People in Police Custody

Duty solicitors who refuse to represent people in custody or who do not adequately represent their interests should not be allowed to continue as duty solicitors.

People who have undertaken Paralegal training should also be allowed to represent people held in police custody, and the state should encourage more people to undertake the training by providing grants to cover the cost of the course.

People in custody should also be allowed to appoint as an advocate or advisor a friend or relative or a local councillor, if she or he is willing to act in that capacity.

The role of Lay Visitors in examining the conditions under which people are held in custody should be better advertised to police officers and people in custody. Representatives of lay visiting panels should be able to attend police authority meetings and make recommendations about improvements to custody conditions. Liberals would encourage more people to become lay visitors.

Security Forces

Liberals would seek to prevent security forces (eg: police, MI5) infringing on the rights and privacy of people involved with peaceful protests. “Intelligence” service activity should be restricted to and concentrated only on those groups or individuals which threaten the physical well-being of other people – rather than those who present a threat only to economic bodies or political policies.

Peaceful Protest

Liberals endorse non-violent direct action (NVDA) as a traditional and legitimate form of protest. We would revoke sections of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) which criminalised several forms of protest (eg: “aggravated trespass”).

We are concerned to ensure that state agencies should be subject to the tests of democratic accountability, justification, and scrutiny. To that end, we call for the establishment of a Royal Commission into the constitutional role of the police.

Liberals call for the establishment of a new Department of Justice to oversee these reforms, together with an independent and properly representative forum to ensure that the rights of the individual are not transgressed by any who wield authority on behalf of the state. There is also an urgent need for effective legal remedies for groups and individuals who have suffered as a consequence of state inflicted injustice and to ensure that victims are adequately compensated. Liberals call for increased aid for victim support schemes.

The Liberal Party welcomes the National Charter of Good Practice for Policing Lesbian and Gay Communities and calls for:

  1. the defence of homosexual panic be reviewed;
  2. a specific offence for “hate crimes” to be introduced and monitored;
  3. all police forces to institute training on issues relating to transgendered people;
  4. the offence of gross indecency be replaced with a new public sex offence applying to both homosexuals and heterosexuals equally;
  5. the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate training on issues related to homophobia and transgender phobia.

Magistrates and Judges

Liberals believe that magistrates and judges should reflect the values of our society and communities and, therefore, should reflect the make-up of our society and communities. We would offer far more encouragement to under-represented groups to get involved. The public image of magistrates and judges, particularly with under-represented groups, could be improved by reforming rules governing them. For example, magistrates and judges should be subject to similar rules about conflicts of interest as local councillors. As well as having to register any political affiliation, they should have to publicly register their financial and non-financial interests and memberships and withdraw from cases in which they have any personal or political interest.

There should be an independent body to investigate complaints about the behaviour or expressed attitudes of magistrates or judges (eg: derogatory remarks about individuals or groups). It should also be possible for this body to scrutinise the track record of magistrates and judges regarding conviction and sentencing for particular types of offence or particular groups of people. This body would have the authority to require that judges or magistrates undergo re-training or further training and to dismiss judges or magistrates from service if necessary.

Trial by Jury

Liberals believe that all defendants should have the right to choose a trial by jury over a trial in a Magistrates Court, whatever offence they have been charged with. We also believe that a guilty verdict in a Crown Court should not mean that the defendant faces a stiffer sentence than she or he would receive in a Magistrates Court for the same offence.

Sentencing

We reject the simplistic demands for harsher penalties. Today’s sentencing procedures are inconsistent and sometimes downright unjust. Regular training on sentencing for judges and magistrates must be implemented, stressing the need to promote the rehabilitation of offenders. We call for an end to custodial sentencing in general, and believe that imprisonment should only be considered for crimes against the person, or which put persons at risk of physical, psychological or emotional injury.

Whilst some young people are committing serious and deeply antisocial offences, an approach which concentrates on incarcerating the most delinquent and damaged adolescents in large soulless institutions under the supervision of staff who have no specialist training in dealing with difficult teenage behaviour is nonsensical and inhumane. Consequently, we call for an end to the use of prison custody for all young people under 18 and that the millions of pounds spent every year on such imprisonment should be redirected towards more constructive methods of solving the problems of youth crime.

Liberals believe that there are no circumstances whatsoever in which the death penalty is appropriate and that the case for capital punishment has now collapsed, especially in the light of recent exposures of miscarriages of justice. We call for capital punishment to be outlawed for those offences which still command the death penalty, and that diplomatic pressure should be brought to bear on other governments in order to persuade them to outlaw capital punishment.

Drugs

Liberals believe that the increase in drug related crime has at least in part been caused by the prohibitive attitude resulting from the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.

Accordingly, the Liberal Party proposes:

the global repeal of legislation regarding the prohibition of drugs and its replacement with an effective strategy of legalisation, regulation and control,
the establishment of an independent multi-agency co-ordinating body to oversee policy development and implementation in relation to the supply and control of drugs;
taxation of drugs and redirection of criminal justice expenditure to education and treatment services;
the dissemination of accurate and truthful information to minimise substance-related harm to individuals and communities.
We believe that these measures will eliminate the criminal market place and cause a reduction in related crime and violence.

Individual and Group Rights

The Liberal Party has always been and remains committed to advancing the rights and opportunities for all individuals and to setting the foundations of one’s freedom first.

It is a fundamental Liberal belief that no one should be discriminated against or disadvantaged due to their sex, gender, culture, religion, race, age, disability, sexual orientation, or identity.

Civil Liberties

Liberals call for the establishment of a Constitutional Convention, with an extensive brief, to draft a Bill of Rights and a Written Constitution.

These should incorporate the individual’s right of access to private personal records, freedom of association, lawful demonstration, dissent picketing, privacy, and the Freedom of speech.

Together, these measures would provide a base for building the positive conditions of liberty.

We condemn the continuing erosion of civil liberties, we believe that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) must be immediately amended to reflect this.

We support an Introduction of effective legal remedies for groups and individuals, who have suffered as a consequence of State inflicted injustice and that victims are adequately compensated.

Constitutional Bill of Speech

Freedom of speech is to be considered one of the pillars of a Free and Liberal society and as such must be protected by those who support and uphold these views.

A Constitutional Bill of speech should be pushed forward to remove and rewrite laws that have been introduced by the government over decades to erode this fundamental right and encourage the Government’s ever-increasing encroachment upon an individual’s privacy.

The bill must include freedom of speech (Verbal, Written and Electronic) to all within the United Kingdom and its territories with exclusions to the following:

  • Defamation
  • Credible Threats of Violence and/or Terrorism
  • Creating Panic to Risk or Cause Physical harm to others within a public arena

Impinging the right of free speech has never been effective in silencing dangerous language, and instead risks driving such discourse underground where, away from the public eye, it grows and spreads unchallenged. 

Euthanasia

The Liberal Party believes that the freedom of an individual should extend to the right to die with dignity at a time of one’s own choosing.

Accordingly, Liberals seek a comprehensive study of voluntary euthanasia, drawing on experience in the Netherlands, where this practice already operates on a limited basis and the attending physician is in accordance with the criteria of due care. Practitioner conscious clause must be included into guidelines, so that no practitioner can be forced into performing the procedure that they do not want to do.

Identity Cards

The Liberal Party opposes the introduction of any form of National Identity documentation, whether it be by Card or Electronic device, whether it be voluntary or compulsory.

With the increasing use of sophisticated technology that bring undoubted benefits to society, it also poses new threats to individual liberty and raises concerns over one’s right to privacy.

Surveillance Cameras

The Liberal Party are concerned at the increased use of surveillance cameras in public places. We are particularly concerned at the serious implications for individuals’ privacy, the risk of the illegitimate use of surveillance cameras, The use of Facial recognition and of commercial exploitation of tapes.

We believe that over reliance on such surveillance deals with the results of social breakdown rather than its causes.

The Liberal Party calls for the appointment of an independent committee to safeguard the public interest and to regulate the use of cameras, both on private and public property and those who use them.

Privacy

The Liberal Party is perturbed by the apparent lack of respect for individual rights shown by the press and media.

However, we are also very concerned at the misuse of existing libel laws by those who have used use the law to protect themselves from legitimate investigation in the public interest. The Liberal Party believe that the libel laws need amending to:

  1. limit the liability to those with editorial control of offending published material – instead of the present situation where the printers and distributors of such material are also quite unfairly liable to be sued. The object of such legal action should not be to receive excessive financial settlements but rather establish facts and get corrections printed – financial compensation should be given a much lower priority;
  2. introduce legal aid in cases of libel to allow ordinary citizens to use and participate in the legal system fairly.

Justice

The Liberal Party support easier access to legal services and simplified court procedures are essential. Furthermore, the Legal Aid system does not correct the present inequalities before the law as only the poorest fifth of the population are now eligible for full civil legal aid.

Extensive legal reforms are urgently needed to correct the imbalance between those who can afford to hire teams of lawyers and sustain the losses, and those who cannot.

Liberals believe that there is a simple, radical solution to this problem: the creation of a National Justice Service (NJS).

Under the NJS, anyone seeking to bring a legal action would need to show reasonable cause, at which point the NJS would determine what legal services are required and at what cost on a “case by case” basis. Both sides would be constrained by a budget imposed by the NJS and hence prevented from driving up the costs unjustifiably. Liberals believe that equal access, rather than choice, must be the overriding consideration.

Women’s Rights

Liberals support a wide range of measures which would enable young girls and women to develop their full potential in a society.

The Land Value Tax policies and revisions on VAT, in which The Liberal Party advocate and support would remove discrimination based on Sex/Gender pushing for a tax system based on land ownership and the taxation of luxury items.

The Liberal Party support the right of a woman to have an abortion. Practitioner conscious clause must be included into guidelines, so that no practitioner can be forced into performing the procedure that they do not want to do. The Liberal Party would also like to ensure that health services provide are required to provide full disclosure of options prior to a final decision being made on an abortion.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is against the law. The law was passed over 30 years ago but it has been a neglected law on the statute book. FGM has been ignored by the police and doctors on the grounds it is an ethnic custom. Liberals believe the act should be implemented – it is a criminal offence not a civil offence.

With regard to health, we favour the introduction of ‘Well Women’ clinics to provide primary health care, support and education, as well as immediate aftercare for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. Education and the dissemination of information about personal health needs would be instituted, together with limited assistance for support and self-help groups.

Young Girls and Women are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, both physical and mental. Liberals would commission studies on all aspects of intimidation with a view to introducing countermeasures to protect their privacy, such as caller ID to counteract harassment at home.

The Liberal Party recognise that sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and domestic violence are not women only issues.

Carers

A “Carer’s Credit” would be introduced for all those at home who care for the young, the old, the disabled or frail. We further believe that all lone parents with one or more children that are under the age of 16 should have the right to choose to remain at home as a ‘carer’ and that doing so should not incur any penalty under the benefit system.

Legislation is needed to ensure equal pay for work of equal value by means of non-discriminatory job evaluation.

People with Disabilities

Liberals supported the Disabled Persons Act of 1986 and The Equality Act 2010 and call for sufficient resources to be made available to ensure its full implementation. Other legislation aimed at improving quality of life is urgently needed.

Care in the communities need to be fully supported, as should voluntary organisations and public information campaigns to increase understanding of disability and combat prejudice and stigma.

Liberals are also concerned that not enough provision is made in public and other buildings to ensure adequate unaided access to facilities for people with disabilities. We therefore call for:

  1. the provision of equal access to all buildings and facilities to which the public has access excluding historic or scientific interests where such measures would be impractical;
  2. improved health and safety regulations to ensure full protection for disabled people;
  3. all new public and private housing developments exceeding ten dwellings be required to include a percentage of dwellings adapted for use by disabled people;
  4. improvements in which measures are made to help increase access and accommodate people with disabilities using public transport;
  5. disabled community groups to be invited to meetings as a consultation team to provide input and highlight issues or concern.

Young People

Liberals recognize that, from an early age, many children are reliant on the education, welfare, recreation and community services to make up for severe deficiencies at home.

This is why we set great store on these services and the concept of community. A feeling of belonging, of well-being and security is a human instinct of particular importance to children.

Action is needed to ensure that nursery provision, both in the community and in the workplace are adequate to enable all who choose to work to do so, confidence in the knowledge that good and safe provision is available for their children.

The abuse and exploitation of children must be stopped and investigate the causation of why it is happened at the root cause and challenge those issues raised.  Further to this, The Liberal Party support’s the introduction of Young Person Centres to work with Child Welfare services to provide a confidential service for young people to be able to come forward to report abuse issues in a safe environment that is easy to access.

Young adults should be introduced to responsibility and decision making at sixteen, incorporating economic independence with a choice between work, further education, community service or a combination of all three.

Liberals call for the voting age and the common age of consent to be lowered to sixteen.

The Liberal Party believes that reasonable student grants should be re-established and extended to cover all types of training. We also call for the restoration of the rights of 16-17 year olds to claim Housing Benefits and Income Support, pending the introduction of a tax credit system.

Liberals recognise that whilst some young people are committing serious and deeply antisocial offences, an approach which concentrates on incarcerating the most delinquent and damaged adolescents in large institutions is inhumane.

We believe that there must be an end to the use of prison custody for all young people under 18 and that the millions of pounds currently spent on such imprisonment be redirected to non-custodial alternatives such as re-habitation and key skills training.

Senior Citizens

Liberals do not believe in inflexible age limits. We seek a more flexible retirement age and greater use of part-time work and job sharing which is ideal for the passing on of skills before complete retirement.

Those on a retirement pension would benefit under our proposed tax credit scheme. Under such a scheme, all would be entitled to a “pension” credit, a “housing” credit and a “personal” credit, to provide a non-means tested monetary income giving an adequate standard of living and the freedom of choice as to how to spend their money.

Until our tax credit scheme is in place, Liberals would use the existing system to deliver a basic state pension which must be set to at least what the Family Budget Unit describes as “Low Cost but Acceptable” (LCA) standard of living. We also believe that additional non-means tested benefits will need to be paid to take account of housing costs, disability, and additional needs of older pensioners.

Liberals believe that private pensions schemes can enhance but can never replace a basic state pension. We also believe that individuals should be able to save for additional benefits in a national scheme, where the individual pension is related to contributions and investment returns.

Because these benefits would be financed directly and genuinely from contributions, those who have saved for their retirement would no longer be penalised because of those savings.

To ensure that these monies are no longer “raided” by government, a separate National Pension and Investment Trust should be established. Such a trust would allow the expectation of flexible retirement ages and would cater for the substantial number of employees who regularly change employment or are in self-employed or part-time work.

As a society we should avoid institutionalising the frail elderly if at all possible – care in the community, properly resourced, is our preferred solution. Sheltered housing schemes and the benefits of new communications systems have given retired people a new independence which Liberals support. The home help and ‘meals on wheels’ services must be maintained and improved.

In order to safeguard people’s financial planning for their retirement, trust law needs to be extended to ensure that pensioners’ entitlements are protected from fraud. Private pension funds should mandatorily include an independent trustee together with adequate training being provided. The powers of the Pensioners Ombudsman should be increased.

The Gypsy and Travelling Community

Liberals deplore the present haphazard provision and discrimination suffered by the gypsy and travelling communities. When proper planning for local authority and private sites is made, these communities are able to contribute and, more importantly, their children are assured an education.

As things stand some districts provide sites, others do not, and communities are harassed from one makeshift pitch to another, often trespassing in places where there are no sanitary arrangements, causing distress to themselves and their neighbours.

While Gypsies and travellers must realise that it is no longer possible to do as one pleases on a small and densely populated island, we recognize that a nationwide plan for permanent and transit sites is vital. Such a policy would bring travelling people within the ambit of an acceptable legal framework which should ensure attitudes of responsible citizenship from the travellers themselves.

LGBT+ Community

Liberals welcome the many gains to the cultural and social life of society that come from the diverse and varied experience and perceptions of the LGBT+ Community.

The Liberal Party continues to support the National Charter of Good Practice for Policing to be applied for LGBT+ Communities.

People convicted of importuning should be pardoned from registers that hold them back from employment as the offence has been repealed.

Diverse Cultures and Languages

Britain has always been a diverse and multi-cultural society which owes much to the peoples of many different origins who choose to live here. Liberals believe in cultural pluralism, whereby all groups can maintain their traditions within the law, thereby achieving a greater understanding between different peoples. Unfortunately, racial discrimination and disadvantages still operate in this country at every level, especially in employment and housing.

Liberals call for the setting up of a “Human Rights Commission” to oversee the introduction of tougher legislation to combat discrimination and introduce contract compliance and monitoring.

Steps must be taken to protect and promote the Welsh, Gaelic and Cornish languages and encouragement given to teaching through the medium of these languages at all levels of education.

All government publications should be made available in the majority languages within the United Kingdom.