James Forsyth

Britain is not a police state so the police must stop behaving like it is

Britain is not a police state so the police must stop behaving like it is
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There are many aspects of the Damian Green affair that are shocking—the breach of Parliamentary privilege, the decision to arrest an opposition MP for essentially doing his job and the role of the permanent secretary at the Home Office—but I think this might be the most disturbing:

The police checked his e-mails for information on Britain’s leading civil liberties group. “They chose key words to search all the e-mails and documents and among the more noteworthy and alarming words they were searching were Shami Chakrabarti, [the director of Liberty]. The police wanted to look at every e-mail over the past few years between an opposition politician and a civil liberties campaigner, although Shami Chakribarti had nothing to do with any of the leaks. This feels to me like a fishing expedition on somebody who embarrasses the government of the day. That is very disturbing.”

The police really do seem to have been totally and utterly out of control in this case. Recent events make it hard to dismiss this as a lone aberration.

Radical reform of the police to make them accountable to the populations they police is essential. But the whole culture of the force needs to change. Policemen must realise they are servants of the law and society not masters of them.  

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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