Nick Page

Vigilance v. surveillance

Any legislation, however good and right it is, will be misused at some time. The anti-terrorism act, however, seems to be setting new highs. Or lows. First we had it used to bar an elderly heckler from the labour party conference. Now BBC’s Broadcasting House programme is reporting on its use in places like Derbyshire, where pig-farmers and publicans have been stopped and searched, simply because they live in a ‘Section 44′ area. Or a trainspotter who was stopped and searched on Basingstoke station. According to the programme, Hampshire police force, for example, have stopped and searched 4,000 people in the last 3 months — compared with only 700 for the whole of 2004. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance; but there’s a difference between vigilance and surveillance.