Monday, May 21, 2007

The UK's Plan than Mirrors "Minority Report"

Leaked British plan would turn doctors, social workers into police informants |
By Andrew Heining |

The British government is weighing a plan that would require civil servants - including social workers and doctors - to report people deemed likely to commit acts of violence in the interest of stopping crimes before they are committed, according to a leaked official document.

The Times of London reports that the British Home Office's internal document on "multi-agency information sharing" - which the newspaper received from a senior British official - would allow government agencies better access to information on potential threats.  Public bodies will have access to valuable information about people at risk of becoming either perpetrators or victims of serious violence.

Professionals will obviously alert police or other relevant authority if they have good reason to believe [an] act of serious violence is about to be committed.

The Times noted that the document says nothing of what would happen to those deemed likely to commit crimes, or their likely victims, were the proposal to be enacted.

Danger signs used to identify an individual as a potential perpetrator might include a violent family background, heavy drinking or mental health problems.  A potential victim might come to the attention of the monitoring agency on seeking treatment for stress-related conditions from a GP.

The Guardian compares a society with the plan enacted to the science fiction film Minority Report, in which Tom Cruise stars as a policeman in a "'pre-crime' unit who arrests would-be perpetrators before they can carry out crimes."

A [spokesman for the British human rights group Liberty] said the reports were worrying.

'What does the Home Office propose to do with the people who have committed no crime, but who fit a worrying profile?  How far are we willing to go in pursuit of the unrealistic promise of a risk-free society?'

But the Guardian noted that supporters of the plan say it could be used for good, citing its ability to identify threats like "killer Ian Huntley, who had been subject to complaints of violent behaviour which were not circulated to authorities in Cambridgeshire, where he became a school caretaker."

A Home Office spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph that it didn't want to comment on leaked documents, but that the proposals are still in development, by a working group it has convened.

The Times report on the proposal comes amid a spate of criticism of Britain's increasing use of closed-circuit (CCTV) cameras to watch the nation's streets.

The Telegraph notes that there are some 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain, an average of one for every 14 people.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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