Sunday, 18 November 2007

The enforcers who will police the Games

A letter in the Glasgow Herald points out some interesting features of the Commonwealth Games Bill:

The enforcers who will police the 2014 Games

In June 2007, the draft Glasgow Commonwealth Games Bill was published, with responses to be sent to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Bill office in Edinburgh. However, this draft (as far as I am aware) does not seem to have been circulated publicly in Glasgow - not even through the public library system. As the closing date for consultation responses was September 21, it seems we have had our consultation.

The full Glasgow Commonwealth Games Bill has now been tabled.

This remarkable document is intended to designate and regulate "Games offences". Outdoor trading and advertising will be banned in the vicinity of Games venues, unless authorised by the organising committee.

Interestingly, possession of a valid street trader's licence does not constitute authorisation to trade in terms of the Bill. In fact, Clause 7 expressly states: "It is not a defence for a person charged with a trading offence that the person has a trading licence whether granted before or after this section comes into force."

Similar restrictions apply to advertisers. Still, Clause 8(1) provides: "Councils must seek to work with existing street traders to try to identify alternative trading arrangements during the times when the trading offence applies." That's a less than cast-iron guarantee that licence-holders will not lose out.

According to Clause 21: "Games offences are to be enforced in accordance with this Act." In pursuance of which, the Bill provides (Clause 22) for the recruitment of inspectors of weights and measures as "enforcement officers". In exercising the General Enforcement Power laid out in Clause 23 (1), "an enforcement officer may take such reasonable steps as " (2) " may include seizing, concealing or destroying anything which the officer reasonably believes to be an infringing article".

Now, in my understanding, enforce is not equivalent to prevent. In fact, it generally means the reverse. Hence, if passed into law, this Bill will both give enforcement officers licence to commit "Games offences" and authorise them to grab, hide and/or destroy the evidence.

Worse, any have-a-go hero attempting to uphold the law will himself be committing an offence for, as Clause 32 explicitly provides: "It is an offence (a) intentionally to prevent or obstruct an enforcement officer from doing anything which the officer is authorised or entitled to do by virtue of this Act "

If Orwell were alive today, I think he would extend his satirical observation that "war is peace" to include the notion that "law is crime" and "crime is law".

Brian D Finch, 56 Fingal Street, Maryhill, Glasgow.

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