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Restoration of the Right to Silence

Comment 22nd August 2010

Please re-instate the right to silence of anyone charged with an offence. It would seem in today’s society we are heading inexorably towards a situation where the police (and other bodies with similar powers) can do no wrong. Whilst they are placed on a metaphorical pedestal, even when in the public perception they have gravely erred, and there always seems to be some reason why they cannot be charged or there is an alleged justification for their actions, it is a completely different ballgame when members of the general public are concerned. Our rights are being eroded and the police allowed every opportunity to erode them further such that DNA samples can be taken when someone is arrested for even the most trivial offence; e.g. taking innocent photographs can now land you in trouble. Time expired records are still not being destroyed as directed by the European Court.
The ending of the right to silence was in many ways the precursor to this gradual erosion of our civil liberties and it should be restored forthwith. With the balance having been tilted in favour of the police at the expense of those civil liberties for so long now it is high time that those facing charge for any offence are legally entitled to once again not prejudice themselves and be entitled to a right of silence; it is an inalienable human right. If the police have enough evidence to charge someone with an offence then the right to silence should not be an issue for them because the evidence should be compelling. If the police have an issue with the right to silence it can only be because they cannot bring sufficient evidence to bear on a case and have to rely on weight not being attached to something the accused brings to the courts later on.
If the police can get away with acts which are plainly caught on video and flashed around the world; then surely the great British public are entitled to the right of silence when accused of an offence. It should then be up to the police or other relevant authority to prove them guilty beyond any reasonable doubt by using their own investigative skills and techniques.
 

Why does this matter?

It is important to restore the right to silence in order to restore confidence in the justice system and the concept of not incriminating oneself. Whatever the legal niceties/technicalities that surround some of the well-publicised cases involving the police, when no charges are ever brought, there is still a gradual erosion of public confidence in the integrity of the police as a result. Not having a right to silence is detrimental to maintaining your innocence when the police do not actually have unassailable evidence to hand and it can also cast doubt on evidence subsequently brought in your defence. Restoration of the right to silence will send a message to the public that the police have to prove you are guilty, rather than taking silence as a tacit admission that you have something to hide.
Many ordinary law abiding citizens now believe that Britain is sleepwalking itself into becoming a police state; taking away the right to silence was a plank in that process.
 

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