How many people in the UK today know of Magna Carta? Ask the question of more mature members of society and most will probably know what it is and many will be able to say why it was sealed and where. The when might be a little hazy now but that can be forgiven since the 800-year anniversary was in 2015 and eight centuries is a long time (the where was Runnymede, on the banks of the River Thames and a little way south of Windsor Castle, just north of Egham).
The sealing of Magna Carta ranks as one of the single most important acts performed in the history of the UK and probably the world as well – it was the act that saw the people rise up against its King but instead of having an outright rebellion and declaring a republic, in 1215 Parliament was born.
Granted it has evolved over those 800 years but it is still the same Parliament that exists today and being the world’s first, it is also why the UK version is known as ‘The Mother of All Parliaments’.
Magna Carta clause 39 states: ‘No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so except by lawful judgement of his equals’.
It isn’t gender-specific by the way, and it applies to women today as much as it did to men eight centuries ago.
Take another look at those last seven words; ‘…except by lawful judgement of his equals’.
What is meant by ‘equals’? It means that, when somebody is accused of doing something unlawful, they may only be declared guilty by a jury in a Court of Law and the members of that jury are made of ordinary people – not Judges, not Lawyers, not the Police or anybody else.
The last Labour government brought into being the ‘Community Safety Accreditation Scheme’, which gave a large number of people police powers - and the ability to destroy lives and careers.
Often rightly referred to as ‘snoopers’, under then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, the numbers rose rapidly and they included park wardens, other council officials and shopping centre staff, all of whom are allowed to issue fines of up to £80 for offences such as littering and criminal damage. They do not answer to a police officer and four out of five police services do not bother to keep track of what these people are doing once they have been given their powers.
In 2015, according to the Manifesto Club, a campaign group opposing over-regulation, some of these ‘accredited persons’ were being allowed to assume even more frightening powers. These include private security guards being permitted to hand out penalty notices for causing ‘harassment, alarm and distress’.
This is considered so serious that it can be recorded on the Police National Computer and can come up in Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks. The Police National Computer by the way, is the ‘PNC Check’ referred to by Police officers when they quiz somebody in the street – or in their home – to find out if they have a criminal record.
The Manifesto Club report warned that just one such fine would ‘in all likelihood debar individuals from teaching, nursing and many other jobs’; which means that careers can be wrecked by civilians with little training or accountability.
The Community Safety Accreditation Scheme was introduced by the Police Reform Act 2002 and under it, a Chief Constable can give employees of a range of organisations powers to carry out specific, approved roles.
The Manifesto Club report said: ‘There is a danger of accredited organisations becoming a shadow police force, outside of both police control and of public scrutiny’.
By using the Freedom of Information Act it found there are 154 organisations, including local councils, accredited by 27 of the 43 Police Services in England and Wales. 34 of these organisations could issue Penalty Notices for Disorder for offences including use of ‘public electronic communications to cause annoyance’.
Of the forces that had issued accreditation, 80 per cent of them were not keeping records of the activities of those involved.
It is a matter of routine today for people to be ‘stripped of [their] rights or possessions’ when the Police raid their home or office, and ‘deprived of [their] standing’ in every way when they are publicly fined by some over-officious busybody exceeding or misusing their authority, an authority that they should not have to begin with.
So much for a Court of Law, evidence and the jury.
More on the erosion of liberty and freedom, and how the state is trampling over the rights of people can be found in ‘Comments of a Common Man’ available via Amazon for £12.99
© Kevan James 2018.