Innocence is no protection against the government’s laws

Convention on Modern Liberty Research Team paper 1
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“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear”, goes the saying. A variant of this suggests that, “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”. Both are wrong because innocence cannot protect the public from government’s authoritarian laws and official bungling, as these stories show.

Mr David Williams of Greater Manchester was held for 13 hours in a police cell after armed police raided his house, mistaking a life-sized model of the computer game character Lara Croft for a real gunman  – Daily Mail, 15 May 2007

Nicholas Gaubert, 34, was shot twice with a Taser gun in July 2005 by police who feared he was a security threat after going into a diabetic coma on a bus in Leeds. The Crown Prosecution Service ruled none of the officers involved should be charged with any criminal offences. BBC News, 15 Nov 2007

Spencer Drury, a Conservative councillor, was stopped by police, ordered to produce identification, and accused of being a terrorist whilst he took a photo of his local Police station on Plumstead High Street for a by-election campaign leaflet. Dizzy Thinks, 21 Sept 2008

A Man was threatened with arrest at Heathrow for wearing a Transformers T-shirt. Brad Jayakody, 30, was reportedly stopped from passing through security at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 after his Transformers T-shirt was deemed ‘offensive’ because the cartoon character was carrying a gun. 2nd June 2008, Press Association

Schoolboy, Fabian Sabbara, 15, was held as a terror suspect after taking photos of a railway station for his GCSE project. Mail Online, 31 Oct 2008

Spencer Schofield, a 30 year-old father from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, was surrounded by 10 police officers, handcuffed then held in a cell for five hours for driving a ‘stolen’ car which was actually his own.  Daily Mail, 1 Oct 2008

A mentally disturbed 89-year-old man, who escaped from his care home, was shot by police with a 50,000 volt Taser when he threatened to kill himself. Independent, 13 Jan 2009

Police used a Taser gun twice on Nicholas Gaubert, 34, in July 2005. They feared he was a security threat after he went into a diabetic coma on a bus in Leeds. BBC News, 15 Nov 2007

Christopher Cocker, 36, fell off his sofa in a fit of laughter, causing his neighbour to believe he had collapsed. Though initially cooperative, when the police first arrived he became ‘aggressive’, was sprayed with parva spray and thrown in a cell. Daily Mail, 11 Jun 2008

Sally Cameron, 34, was arrested under the Terrorism Act, kept in a cell for hours and then charged, all for walking along a cycle path in the harbour area of Dundee. The Times, 17 Oct 2005

Dave Vaughan, 60, aka “PC Konk the Clown”, was deemed a security risk and ordered to strip from his costume to his underwear at Birmingham Airport, where he had been booked by the Variety Club Midlands to perform for disadvantaged children. The Times, 22 Dec 2008

Lazaris Michael, 76, was fined £60 by a Thanet Council warden for littering after a policeman knocked a cigarette out of his hand while apprehending a shoplifter. Mail on Sunday, 7 Dec 2008

Operating under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, Worcestershire and Malvern Hills district council raided the home of Craig and Marjorie Walsh, both 59.  The couple had their and computers, medical histories and credit card information taken after claims that the kennel they owned was over-crowded. One dog was in residence. Daily Mail, 8 Oct 2008

Mark White, 39, of Welling, Kent, was sent a letter demanding £571.76 for a parking fine on a car he did not own. Daily Telegraph, 20 Nov 2008

South Wales Police wasted £100,000 and the time of 11 officers to spy on PC Mark Pugh, a dog handler, who they suspected was faking posttraumatic stress disorder following a football riot in Cardiff.  He was refused a full disability pension but was later granted it at the Police Medical Appeal Board after it was established that he was suffering from depression. Daily Telegraph12 Sep 2008

John Molyneux, 60, a university lecture, was arrested during a peaceful protest in Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square over Israel’s invasion of Gaza.  He was charged under the Public Order Act for failing to give police enough notice of the demonstration. The Portsmouth News 15 January 2009,

Jack Roocroft was the victim of an armed police stake out at the pensioner’s home for more than two hours after a hoax 999 call claimed the 78-year-old had been driving around Monmouth on his vintage tractor brandishing a shotgun.  Suffering from Leukaemia, Mr Roocroft was arrested and held overnight in the cells. Western Daily Press January 06, 2009

Lyndsey Craig, 24, from Liverpool, had her six- month old baby removed by social services when she took the child to her doctor after spotting a purple mark on his ear. She feared it might be a symptom of meningitis.  The parents’ home was searched, they were questioned by social workers and the baby spent 3 weeks with his grandparents until a child protection conference concluded that the baby could return.  Daily Telegraph January 2009

Poole Borough Council used RIPA surveillance laws to spend two weeks following a family wrongly accused of lying on a school application form.  The official spies made copious notes on the movements of the mother and her three children, who they referred to as “targets”, and even watched the family home at night to establish where they were sleeping. Telegraph, 21 Oct 2008