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BALACLAVA BOVVER Just when you thought that there weren't enough nasty laws to keep us in our places, along comes The New Crime and Disorder Act, which came into effect this month. Democracy is now surely safe with this new law which amongst other things, makes wearing masks on demonstations illegal, and creates new Anti-Social Behaviour orders to deal with bad people. Here is your survival guide to the new powers the forces of darkness now posess. MASKING UP ILLEGAL Sections 25-7 of the new act dictate that a Police Officer of inspector rank or above can order you to de-mask on a demo if s/he fears "serious violence or disorder in his/her area". They also have the power to confiscate and destroy materials used to mask up with- so don't take your brand new tops. Failure to de-mask can land you in the nick for up to a month. On a hunt sab in Dorset last month, the cops declared the whole county an area of potential serious disorder in order to force sabs to de-mask. Amongst items confiscated were hooded tops and a copy of the local paper that one shy sab was using to preserve his modesty! But fear not, when quizzed by SchNEWS our friendly Dorset cops informed us that they would only use the legislation where appropriate, and if it was a cold December morning on a peaceful demo then you could wear your scarves in safety. Well that's alright then. Thames Valley Police used the act at last weekends anti-vivisection demonstration at Hillgrove Farm. The police went back on a previous agreement not to perform searches on the day, forcing 41 people to unmask and nicking one man who refused to do so. Some might say it's a wee bit unfair, since cops often have their faces covered on demos, and seem to mysteriously lose their ID numbers. But of course, police don't need to conceal their identity, as they would never do anything wrong, would they? Anti Social Behaviour Orders Sections 1-4 of the Act cover the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBO). When someone is suspected of anti-social behaviour, a senior police officer or local authority can apply to the courts for an ASBO which is done in a civil rather than criminal court, so they need less proof to get one. The hearing can also be held without the person affected by the ASBO being there to defend themselves. Once they get it, they can not only force the person to stop the "anti-social" behaviour, but can also get more wide-ranging restrictions on their actions, even if it's not directly relevant to the ASBO, such as curfews or exclusion orders. The order runs for at least 2 years, but can be extended for indefinite periods. Violation of an ASBO can land you with up to 5 years in the nick. These orders are being hailed as the way to deal with "neighbours from hell", but animal rights groups fear the new law will be used against them in the same way that the anti-stalking laws have . The definition of anti-social behavuiour is so wide-ranging that you can have an ASBO slapped on you if your behaviour causes "alarm or distress, or harassment to one or more people". Wouldn't it be spooky if protestors at Hillgrove or Shamrock started getting ASBOs issued against them? Wider definition of terrorism Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, those nice guardians of our freedom in the Labour government have punlished their 'Legislation against Terrorism' Consultation Paper which will protect us all from international terrorism, with the use of even more draconian laws. The Paper suggests, amongst other things, that there is a "continuing need for counter-terrorist legislation for the foreseeable future." This is regardless of the threat of terrorism in Northern Ireland How odd then, that it was a Labour government that introduced the first Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1974, promising that it was only a temporary measure, brought in after the Birmingham pub bombings. Well apparently the "time has come to put that legislation onto a permanent footing" Whoops! This Consultation paper also proposes to widen the definition of terrorism as "the use of serious violence against persons or property, or the threat to use such violence to intimidate or coerce a government, the public, or any section of the public for political, religious or ideological ends." If it wasn't obvious enough, they intend to use this definition to include animal rights activities, and "indigenous groups prepared to engage in serious violence to further their cause (e.g. independence for a certain region, or environmental concerns)". So watch out all you Cornish nationalists and anti-open cast campaigners. Finally the paper proposes that the powers of stop and search and detention that exist in Northern Ireland should be extended to the rest of the UK. So a copper can arrest you to "prevent acts of terrorism" and hold you for up to 28 days without trial. But before you all get too paranoid and give up direct action, and start to write dodgy anarcho news-sheets, they're only bringing in such laws, because they realise how effective direct action is. So bear in mind the London Animal Rights News editorial "Whilst we should monitor the situation, it in some way reflects the success our movement has had. It shows that animal abusers see us a force to be reckoned with."
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