This is a successor to the National Council for Civil Liberties’ Handbook of Citizens’ Rights but it much more extensive in its range. The NCCL is not anti the police, public services or the establishment. It is interested only in basic legal rights and is anti – as we all should be – the misuse and abuse of power. Unlike Canada and the USA, this country has no written constitution, no Bill of Rights. Consequently the rights of British citizens are often difficult to isolate and even harder to assert. Vigilance is required to safeguard liberty, but can only be based on knowledge.
This 356 page guide sets out the legal rights of British citizens in simple terms. Unfortunately, as the editors point out, too often one may only find out what one can do by studying the lists of what one cannot do. The most sensitive areas (racial discrimination, drug use, rights on arrest and court procedure) are thoroughly covered, but the guide also includes valuable chapters on the law and the motorist, the consumer, the landlord and tenant. There are sections devoted to children, to education, to sex and to marriage. The theoretically law-abiding citizen who will never be searched on suspicion of carrying drugs or discriminated against through colour or sex, will find much to concern him. The distinguished list of contributors have been resolutely fair: anomalies in the law (different rights for a husband and wife, for a girl of 16 and a boy of 16 for example) are quietly pointed out and case-histories are included where relevant. The full text of the European Convention of Human Rights, which the United Kingdom signed in 1950 but the provisions of which have yet to be incorporated into the ordinary law of the land, is published as an appendix.