The threat of homegrown terrorism is being used as an excuse to erode our privacy and human rights, according to Shami Chakrabarti.

The director of Liberty warned people to be on their guard to protect the freedoms we take for granted amid what she sees as diminishing civil liberties.

However, despite that, the human rights campaigner feels the UK is still one of the best countries in the world to live in – and was glad Scotland voted to remain part of the UK.

Ms Chakrabarti, a qualified barrister who was a panel member for the Leveson Inquiry, said: "I don't believe in splitting things up into smaller and smaller units," she said.

"I also think even with all our problems, I would rather be non-white in the UK than almost anywhere else in Western Europe. Because of the inherent complexity of these islands – with English, Scots, Welsh, Irish – we can support different teams but be comfortable with our differences, which is a good not a bad thing."

Ms Chakrabarti's first book, On Liberty, which was published this month, examines the threats to our rights and freedoms post 9/11, including an examination of privacy laws and anti-terrorism legislation.

While she appreciates the issue is complex she warned of the dangers of over-reacting to a perceived threat.

Regarding Birmingham man and former Guantanamo Bay inmate Moazzam Begg, who saw seven Syria-related terror charges against him dropped earlier this month, she said: "I am not second-guessing, sometimes people get charged sometimes they don't but what I am about is fairness and due process.

"It's not for me to say but goodness me that man has experienced internment and had the rough end of the stick for a very long time being banged-up in Guantanamo Bay."

Ms Chakrabarti, who was in Birmingham to speak at Birmingham Law Society's annual pro bono event, accepts people have real concerns about terrorism but feels the response by the Government needs to be "appropriate" and dealt with under "fair trial principles".

"I can make high-minded human rights arguments on the violation of people's rights to lock them up indefinitely but it's also desperately counter-productive," she said.

"If someone wasn't a terrorist before you lock them up they are certainly not going to like you at the end of it.

"If they get acquitted they will stand on the steps of the Old Bailey and say I always knew justice would be done and thank goodness for the 12 members of the jury.

"There will be wider vindication that we do have a fair trial system, which is a positive statement in itself to minority communities.

"Contrast that to someone being banged-up without trial and then probably let go, they don't stand next to a solicitor, they just feel their lives have been wasted.

"You are trying to tell them, their families and people all over the world that our great democratic society is what people should choose instead of a caliphate.

"But we have been going down the road of surveillance and in the end you create a society that looks more like the terrorists' ideal society and less and less like the Great Britain of old you were defending."

It is the level of surveillance being advocated by Homes Secretary Theresa May that is a cause for condemnation for Ms Chakrabarti.

"It equates to blanket surveillance whether via the internet or whatever but it turns the whole population into suspects," she added. "Theresa May would say bad stuff happens online and it can't be an ungoverned space like Somalia.

"I understand that bad stuff happens online and in real life but you could argue that every house has been a domestic space has been a crime scene at some point.

"What Theresa May proposes to do with legislation is the equivalent of saying bad things happen in people's homes, so we are changing the law so there will be cameras in everyone's home – but don't worry the innocent have nothing to fear.

"We will scoop up images and record sounds but we won't look at it until after something happens and you are a suspect.

"Do you think people are happy with that? No, because they have been violated and we have to have privacy. We have to have proportionate surveillance targeted at suspects, not blanket surveillance that scoops up information from the whole population.

"It should be judges issuing warrants but we have brought in blanket surveillance without Parliamentary or judicial approval. That is undemocratic and a violation of the rule of law."

Ms Chakrabarti is also highly critical of legal aid cuts that have denied people free representation in criminal and family courts, as well as Conservative plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.

She said: "How can you have the rule of law and human rights if you don't have access to justice.

"After the war, people decided everyone should get access to education, to healthcare and that there should be a safety net in terms of benefits.

"There was also access to justice – we laid the pillars of the welfare state but that has been decimated.

"A lot of people can't afford legal advice, they could be losing their kids or their homes but they can't get the advice and representation they need.

"But MPs are very good at squealing for justice when people accuse them of fiddling their expenses. People say human rights are controversial but everyone loves human rights when they are their own – it's other people's human rights that are a problem.

"I would say be careful what you wish for, as you won't know what you have until it's gone."

Ms Chakrabarti feels although we have lost a lot of freedoms since 9/11 we have also made gains, particularly in terms of gay and race equality, though she ultimately warned against complacency."

"It's about time we stood up a little bit more," she said. "People think it is okay, it's England – we can compromise on civil rights and there will never be an abuse of power here because it's England. There's a cocktail of fear and crisis and complacency – because we have been so lucky for so long and had a great unbroken period of democracy – but that blend is a big danger to rights and freedoms in the UK.

"People all over the world look at our freedoms jealously but sometimes we just hand them away.

"My generation needs to remember we hold these freedoms on trust for generations to come – people paid with their blood and we shouldn't let it all go."