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One more step towards a Police State?

If the UK isn’t already a Police State then the following from the BBC certainly seems to be pointing the way to a time when the police can act as they like with no judicial oversight whatsoever :

The police are seeking powers to shut down websites deemed to be engaged in “criminal” activity.The Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has tabled a plan for Nominet, which oversees .uk web addresses, to be given the domain closing power.

Nominet said the idea was only a proposal and invited people to join the debate on the form of the final policy.

IT lawyers said the proposal would be “worrying” if it led to websites going offline without judicial oversight.

“It’s not policy at this stage,” said Eleanor Bradley, director of operations at Nominet.

She said SOCA’s proposal emerged from changes made to Nominet’s policy development process earlier in 2010, as well as experiences with closing down a series of criminal sites in the last 12 months.

In the proposal, SOCA pointed out that Nominet currently has no obligation to close down criminal websites. SOCA wants this changed so domains can be cancelled if law enforcement agencies deem them to be engaged in criminal activities, and inform Nominet of their conclusion.

SOCA being one of ACPOs pets :

SOCA uses covert techniques and tactics but it is not a secret organisation. It is a Home Office Non-Departmental Public Body created by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

SOCA is not a police force, nor is it is an intelligence agency. We use a combination of intelligence and law enforcement powers to reduce the damage caused by serious organised crime. SOCA officers are unique in that they are designated with the powers of a constable, an officer of HM Revenue and Customs, an immigration officer, or a combination of these.

They also have form in getting things banned without recourse to the law.  I wrote previously about their role in removing 500 euro notes from sale in the UK :

It does appear that this whole ban is actually a gentleman’s agreement between the banknote wholesalers and SOCA which is the kind of grubby, underhand, non-democratic occurrences that belong in a third world dictatorship. Our new government certainly has plenty of shit to shovel out before they can even get to see the stable floor.

I see this latest move as a way of legitimising they way they already pressure IPSs into removing content as they did in the case of fitwatch recently (excerpt from Longrider) :

The police managed to get Fitwatch closed down.

Scotland Yard has forced the closure of an anti-police blog which was being used to disseminate advice to protesters pictured at the student fees demonstration.

The website Fitwatch was suspended after the its hosting company received contact from C011, the Metropolitan’s public order branch, stating that the blog was “being used to undertake criminal activities”.

That’s right – a detective inspector authorised a letter. That’s it. No court order, no senior officer involved, just a detective inspector’s say so. And, on the basis of that, the host rolled over.

In summary, they got caught red handed and are now looking for a neat way to avoid being caught at playing judge, jury and executioner in future.

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