This week saw the deaths of two men who have had a lot of influence in the seemingly never ending fight for our human rights and freedoms, namely the tv and film actor and director Patrick McGoohan and the lawyer and author Sir John Mortimer QC.
Patrick McGoohan, despite a successful Hollywood career as an actor and director, is most famous in the UK, for the stylish tv series, The Prisoner , in which he starred, and also wrote and directed many of its 17 episodes back in 1968. This featured an ex spy, "Number Six" held within the high tech surveillance and control panopticon of The Village (filmed mostly in Portmeirion, in North Wales), run by a powerful, ruthless, yet often incompetent, gang of nameless bureaucrats, under a succession of mysterious leaders, each designated as the new "Number Two".
Even under this totalitarian nightmare, of a seemingly open society, underpinned by high tech surveillance, snooping and informers and agent provocateurs, Patrick McGoohan's character still resists the evil control freaks of The Village, sometimes with the help of (often untrustworthy) fellow Prisoners and "jammers".
Apart from "Rover" (what was originally to be a robotic perimeter security vehicle, which was changed to a spookily filmed latex weather balloon, due to mechanical breakdowns) and the occasional foray into "mind swaps", all of the technology portrayed back in 1968 has been refined, developed, and deployed nowadays e.g. target tracking CCTV cameras, linked to large control room wall displays etc. Such snooping systems now cover large sections of our cities and public transport systems, providing control and surveillance for the authorities. They are supposed to give the impression that politicians are "doing something", but actually provide little or no measurable benefit for the public, and no deterrence against crime or terrorism, whilst adding to the cost and stress of living in Britain.
Various catch phrases such as "I am not a Number, I am a free man!" and "What do you want ? Information" resonate as loudly as George Orwell's "Big Brother Is Watching You" in today's nanny police database state Britain.
See The Prisoner Appreciation Society - Six of One for links.
One of the accomplished actors who played the role of "Number Two", was the late Leo McKern, who later rose to international fame in the role of Horace Rumpole, a loveable, cunning, erudite, principled and humane, jobbing defence barrister, in the tv series entitled Rumpole of the Bailey,
The creator of Rumpole was the real life barrister, author and playwright Sir John Mortimer QC, a "champagne socialist" lawyer and media luvvy, who defended in Court, several important cases involving the fundamental English (and British) human rights, notably that of freedom of expression.
Sir John Mortimer's depiction of the inner workings of the British legal establishment, is both as true to life and often as funny, as that of Government Ministers and Civil Service mandarins portrayed in the later tv series Yes, Minister.
Sir John Mortimer was recently, obviously horrified by the Labour Government's fundamental attacks on the human rights of innocent people, especially the concept of Anti Social Behavior Orders and the vast amount of complicated, repressive, Terrorism legislation.
This all chips away at, and destroys, what his character Horace Rumpole, and many lawyers (except for those in this Labour Government) still take to be the "Golden Thread of British Justice", i.e. the principle of the presumption of innocence - "innocent until proven guilty", in public, based on actual evidence and witnesses, which can be cross examined by defence lawyers, rather than secret "intelligence" allegations, made by faceless accusers or by paid informers and agent provocateurs.
"It is better to let ten guilty people go free in Court, than to wrongly convict a single innocent person".
Hopefully, although these talented men have now passed on, their warnings will still be heeded by current and future generations.