Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Authoritarian Implementation Of Laws

Several years ago, the European Council agreed to establish a "European network for the protection of public figures". The rationale behind this was that, "The growing number of visits made by public figures to the Union has prompted the Council to adopt a decision to set up a European network for the protection of public figures that will act as an official communication and consultation channel for national authorities."

We now have a preparatory act being introduced to the original Decision, 2002/956/JHA of 28 November 2002, the amendment being known as Decision 2008/C 330/03, extending this as above. The reason for this amendment is "a need to better protect non-officials who are deemed to be under threat because of their contribution to or impact on the public debate." For the uninitiated, Decisions are "binding in their entirety upon those to whom they are addressed". A Decision is similar to a Regulation in that there is no need for national enabling legislation, but it is more narrowly focussed. 

Of course it makes sense for international cooperation to take place behind the scenes to make sure we don't have a 'grassy knoll' moment here. What was a concern at the time was the seeming lack of parliamentary awareness of the development, and a general lack of information on what public costs would additionally emerge.

Will British police forces be required to stump up to provide an amount of personal protection to a celebrity that is equal to that he or she expects in his own country, even where that parity is not required? Will it change the amount of protection (and taxpayers' cost) currently given to, say, holocaust deniers, or Islamic fundamentalists, visiting this country?

Will people be given a level of armed protection not normally allowed? Does it over time give a new level of authorisation for foreign policemen and bodyguards to be allowed to operate armed in this country? Will it change the nature of armed protection itself, specifically the rules of engagement of these bodyguards?

It can be argued, quite properly, that the operational details of protection arrangements should remain unpublished, but more importantly some facts, such as those mentioned above, should be made public.

Whatever the outcome of this latest Decision, you can be assured of one particular aspect - you won't get a vote on it!

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