Curtailment of liberties can sometimes be a good thing. For example curtailing the liberty of drivers to drive as fast as they like, is of benefit to everyone. The liberties of pedestrians, cyclists and even other road users to enhanced safety and less environmental degradation outweighs the liberty of drivers to do as they please. Therefore some liberties are not automatically a good thing. There is always a balance to be had.
This issue about balance is the first point to be made. When someone claims a liberty to be a civil liberty, they have to justify this claim, it cannot be assumed that all liberties are good.
The second point to be made is that even the principles of civil liberties have practical restraints, for example it is not practical for the state to prove every driving offence, therefore there is some presumption of guilt if a person does not challenge the penalty ascribed.
As a lot of you know, I have faced a lot of criticism for my support of Tony Blair's respect agenda and also for supporting the idea of an ID card (something I still think is needed, however I did eventually concede that the government's current proposals on ID fail in terms of the reliability of biometrics and the lack of security of the National Identity Register).
For supporting these two issues I have been accused of being authoritarian on the grounds that these schemes threaten our civil liberties by eroding the principles of 'innocent to proven guilty' and the principle of 'the best government governs least'.
As I have suggested above, there is no black and white on these issues, it is always a matter of balancing differing liberties between peoples and of practicalities in enforcing civil liberty principles.
The government's respect programme can be viewed in detail here. It is not all about extending fines and low level punishments to include anti-social breaches of law. Most of it is about positive encouragements to reduce crime where it is concentrated.
As I have acknowledged in other posts, I accept that this summary justice 'may' mean more innocent people being affected. This is of course regrettable but no system is entirely accurate, as we all know even the present criminal justice system involves innocent people being wrongly punished (this is one of the main reasons why we should never have the death penalty).
I believe that the benefits of the government's respect proposals in reducing anti-social behavior mean that the benefits to us all are worth the extra risk of the low level punishments being dished out unfairly. There will still be a recourse to court for anyone who wishes to object.
In the vast majority of cases, especially of those where guilt is admitted, the fast, effective (and considerably cheaper) justice will be of benefit to us all, even those who commit the anti-social crimes.
As I have stated before of course these measures need to be accompanied by more positive measures such as helping parenting skills and reducing poverty. These are areas where this government has made huge progress and these measures also make up the majority of the respect agenda. Saying all that summary powers are an essential part of bringing our criminal justice system up to scratch and for those reasons I satnd firmly behind them.