Liberty campaigned against the CJIB

In June 2007 the UK human rights lobby group Liberty joined its name to the growing list of opponents to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007 and has raised concerns about the plans to criminalise the possesion of pornography.

In an initial briefing on the Bill, Liberty called on the new UK government to drop the CJB.

Liberty described the massive Bill as "a last-ditch effort to dictate the future business for the new Cabinet" by Tony Blair and John Reid.

It called on the new Prime Minister, new Home Secretary and new Justice Minister "not to plough on with this huge laundry list of unfinished business".

"We hope that the new Cabinet stops to think whether it really wants to continue the old trends of endless new laws on immigration and criminal justice, more and more new criminal offences and broader and broader police powers," Liberty said.

While it said there are a number of welcome proposals, it said these were "too often drowned out by the meaningless political rhetoric of "Simple, Speedy, Summary Justice" and "Rebalancing the Criminal Justice System in Favour of the Law Abiding Majority".

Liberty had accused the Labour Government of losing sight of the basic values underlying our criminal justice system: the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial before an independent court.

As for plans to criminalise the possession of pornography, Liberty said it had serious concerns which it would raise during the Committee Stage.

Liberty said it "wanted to assess whether

  1. there is a sound justification for extending the criminal law by creating the proposed new offence (including by assessing whether offences already exist)
  2. whether the proposed offence is certain enough, allowing citizens to clearly understand what is and is not a criminal offence) and
  3. ensuring that the offence does not go further than is justified."

Liberty's position is given in detail in two briefing documents, one for the second reading of the Bill covering the extreme pornography clauses from page 16, and one for the committee stage covering extreme pornography (from page 15).

Gareth Crossman. Liberty's Director of Policy, appeared before the Select Committee to answer questions on the 18th October, transcript here.

Backlash comment

Backlash had already argued that no new law was neccessary, that the legislation criminalises too many otherwise respectable, law abiding citizens without any likely benefit to society, and unfairly stigmatises a number of sexualities.

Backlash welcomed Liberty's decision to question the need for a law which would criminalise people for looking at pictures of consenting adults where no-one was harmed.