Blair calls for 'profound re-balancing' of UK civil liberties debate

[JURIST] UK Prime Minister Tony Blair [official profile] on Monday called for a "profound re-balancing of the civil liberties debate" in the United Kingdom as he announced a series of policy consultations over the next several months to discuss public service reform, including the criminal justice system, designed to help formulate the manifesto for the governing Labour Party [party website] in the next election. At the London launch of the party's Let's Talk campaign, Blair said [speech transcript]:

My view, as I have been saying for some time now, is that we cannot reform [the criminal justice system] unless we change radically the political even philosophical context in which it operates. I believe we require a profound re-balancing of the civil liberties debate. The issue is not whether we care about civil liberties but what that means in the early 21st Century. The demands of the majority law-abiding community have to take precedence. We should not have to fight continual legal battles to deport people who are committing serious crimes or inciting extremism. We cannot allow violent or drug-abusing offenders to be put back out on the street again without proper supervision and if necessary restraint. We cannot have bail requirements, probation orders and community sentences flouted without proper penalty. None of these things are new. What is new is, I hope, an emerging national and political consensus to tackle them. This should be a central part of the debate ahead.
Blair said the criminal justice system is "the public service most distant from what reasonable people want" and said that Chancellor Gordon Brown [official profile], expected to succeed Blair as prime minister, would be launching an initiative to determine how UK security policies can be better funded and coordinated to "ensure families and communities have the protection and security they need."

Blair's Monday comments about civil liberties come in the wake of government doubts [JURIST report] expressed about judicial interpretations of the UK Human Rights Act after a High Court judge authorized temporary asylum for nine Afghan nationals who hijacked a plane from Afghanistan to the UK in 2000. Blair has since asked [JURIST report] new Home Secretary John Reid [official profile] to look at "whether primary legislation is needed to address the issue of Court rulings which over-rule the Government in a way that is inconsistent with other EU countries interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights." The Guardian has more.

 

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