Sunday, 28 March 2010
An Englishman's Home is his Castle
"Bloody snoopers," he muttered flopping down in the chair next to me.
"Another brush with GCHQ?" I asked with a sly grin.
"Nothing so quixotic," he said, his smile returning. "It's the bloody TV detector vans round again. That's the third time this year."
"I thought you didn't have a TV?"
"Wouldn't have one in the house! Utter rubbish and governement propaganda. But do they believe you? No they have to come in and look around for themselves."
"Why do you let them?"
"Can't stop them old chap!"
"Don't they need a search warrant or something?"
"Pardon me for butting in." It was Montague Hyde our resident barrister. "I couldn't help overhearing you gentlemen talking about warrants. Things have changed a great deal over the last 13 years. There are now over a thousand different officials who have complete access to your home any time they please. And they don't need a warrant."
I was incredulous. "You must be joking!"
"Not at all my dear fellow. Most people don't realize it but the TV detector man is the least of your worries these days."
"But an Englishman's Home is his Castle!"
"That may well have been true in 1629 when Sir Edward Coke issued his well known declaration and the Petition of Rights was created, but alas it is true no more," added Montague Hyde. "Government and local officials can force their way into your home not just to pursue criminals and terrorists but for the most trivial of reasons."
"Such as?" I queried.
"To check health and safety standards, for instance. Or height of your hedges, or to check whether you are profiting from the plunder of shipwrecks, or conduct rabbit control..."
"You're kidding me!"
"...checking babysitting credentials.... inspecting potted plants... monitoring the environmental credentials of refrigerators.... the list goes on and on. The proliferation of the grounds of entry coupled with the wide discretion granted has left individuals wide open to arbitrary abuse by the state."
"Goodness, I had no idea...."
"Very few people do, until its their door that is being knocked on in the middle of the night. I'm afraid that an Englishman's home is no more impregnable than an aging ruin now.