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The law and the Olympics

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Adrian Warner | 13:29 UK time, Wednesday, 22 July 2009

It's not often you ask a question which completely silences some of Britain's leading minds on security.

But it happened this week at a briefing by Olympic security chiefs from the Met Police, Home Office and 2012.

Why, I asked, were there clauses in the Olympic Act which allow the police to raid the homes of people with anti-2012 posters in their front windows?

Chris Allison, the man in charge of the Games at the Met Police, had just told me that the police would not be using the powers in the Act to do this.

olympic_act.jpgSpin doctors were also desperately keen to tell me that the clauses in the Act were aimed at stopping companies from "ambush marketing" - that is sticking advertising near the Olympic Park to associate themselves with the Games when they are not official sponsors.

So why then are there clauses about "non-commercial advertising", which covers political protests, in the Act?

Nobody could answer that.

That's because, human rights lawyers believe, those clauses shouldn't be there.

The Act gives the Government the power to tell the police to remove anti-Olympics posters from both businesses and homes near Olympic venues.

Legal experts say it even gives the police the power to enter the home of somebody who is producing the posters on a photocopier.

Last month, we broke the story about the concerns about freedom of speech expressed by the leading human rights lawyer Aileen McColgan.

We went to Greenwich, where some residents oppose the staging of the equestrian events. There, one leading campaigner was shocked that he could have police on his doorstep demanding to remove a poster from his front window. "Bullying," he called it.

Chris Allison says the police won't follow the letter of the law. Civil rights actitivists will be watching closely to make sure the Met keep to that promise.

But critics believe the Act seems to have been passed to satisfy the International Olympic Committee, without enough proper scrutiny about the freedom of speech issues.


  • Comment number 1.

    So if the police don't plan to use the powers, why are they in the act? History teaches us if the police have powers, they will use them (remember Walter Wolfgang?)

    This is another example of the creeping police state.

  • Comment number 2.

    The reason this was added in is because the government know the truth in that 87% of the London population did not want the games in the first place. Coupled with the spiralling expenditure at a time the country cannot afford. Add in the extra waste of money such as the logo fiasco, the Anish Kapoor eyesore and you begin to realise just why the government wanted laws to protect its incompetence from being exposed to widely. I seem to recall my history lessons in that a certain leader back in the 40's introduced laws forbidding criticism and free speech. But then he was a megalomaniac.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ive been in whistler now for the last year and its pretty funny to see the same issues that a lot of locals faced here duplicated for london2012. Do a search on "bill 13 - whistler" You'll find a lot of people who got pretty angry about this new "law"

    "Bill 13, the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act, provides the municipalities of Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler “with temporary enforcement powers to enable them to swiftly remove illegal signs and graffiti during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games"

    Basically the same law as the UK one, "We have the power to come in your house and remove a sign we dont like, although we wont use the power really...promise."


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