The Home Office has published Yet Another Public Consultation Demanding Even More Police Powers.
This time it is called "New Powers Against Organised and Financial Crime" (1Mb .pdf, 51 pages)
Thankfully, unlike other recent Home Office Consultations, this one, at least, uses standard Arial fonts in the .pdf file.
The Public Consultation ends on October 17th 2006
What possible, quantitative case is there that numerous criminals are not already being dealt with by these agencies, and that the only way forward is for even more legal powers, which sacrifce the civil liberties and privacy and security of the vast majority of innocent people ?
See also this BBC report
Some obvious worries:
The Public Consultation contains several evil proposals:
- The Home Office seems set to try to extend the the regime and of Control Orders currrently abusing the human rights of terrorist suspects, who have not been charged with any crime, to also apply to "ordinary" serious criminals, and to companies or voluntary organisations or individuals, merely on the periphery of serious organised crime.
- The Consultation document tries to justify these abominable "Crime Prevention Orders" in cases where there is insufficient evidence to prosecute suspected criminals. However, the Home Officie is suggesting that they will be High Court and Court of Appeal will be involved which will be very expensive in terms of lawyers fees and of senior police officiers time. Surely, the Judges will demand some actual evidence, which could have been used for a prosecution in the first place.
- Protesting your innocence, or ignorance of allegedly peripheral activities , not themselves illegal, but simply allegedly "supporting" criminal activities, will be of little use to you if you are subjected to such a Crime Prevention Order, as no actual proof will need to be supplied against you.
Only in the ivory towers of Marsham Street or Downing Street, could there be the idea that a Crime Prevention Order applied to some part of a company or organisation's activities, would, magically, have no effect whatsover on the reputation of the company with its other legitimate customers.
- There are also proposals for a massive increase in Data Sharing and Data Mining of Government information, and private sector blacklists. There is no proper re-assurance about speculative "fishing expiditions".
- There also seems to be a proposal to privatise the confiscation of allegedly criminal assets, presumbaly because the Assets Recovery Agency is failing.
How long before NuLabour reverts to a policy of 18th Century "thief takers" who informed on criminals, and took a share of their confiscated property and money, with obvious opportunities for bribery, corruption and false allegations as a result.
- There are references to the Human Rights Act and to the Data Protection Act, and fundamental principles like "innocent until proven guity", but the impression that this document gives is that these are seen merely as obstacles, which can be worked around, and that the public perception about likely misuses can be spun and "managed" .
- There are literally no suggestions or proposals for any detailed safeguards to protect the innocent from the abuse of such extraordinary powers by faceless bureaucrats, e.g. increased criminal penalties for the abuse of power by the police or other agencies. Somehow, a token discussion with the largely toothless Information Commissioner, is meant to be some reassure to the public.
- There is no mention whatsoever of the Criminal Records and Disclosure aspects of such Crime Prevention Orders, which will be, just like ASBOs, civil orders with the civil standard of proof "on the balance of probailities", but with criminal penalties
- Just as with the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 Control Orders, there are claims that "up to 1000" people might be the targets of such Orders, a figure which has not yet been borne out in practice.
Just as with the anti-terrorism Control Orders, the surveillance resources which will need to be devoted to ensure that the Crime prevention Orders are not being breached, are an utter waste, Surely these resources could have been better used for secret surveillance of the criminal suspects, without tipping them and their possible criminal contacts off that they are under investigation ?
This seems to be a further extension of the utterly bogus concept of "disruption". The Home Office has extreme difficulty in producing meaningful statistics on actual crimes and convictions, let alone wolly concepts like "disruption" of possible future crimes which may never have been realised in practice anyway.
- There is also mention of the "Lander review" of the anti-money laundering red tape system imposed on the financial industry and its customers:
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act and related legislation on terrorist financing, the regulated sector is required to submit Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) to SOCA where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion that money laundering has occurred or is in prospect, or an offence under sections 15 to 18 of the Terrorism Act 2000 has been committed. The reporting system has recently been reviewed by Sir Stephen Lander. The key conclusion of this review was that the reports are a potentially invaluable resource and could be used much better.
So why does this document not mention that Sir Stephen Lander was the former Director General of the Security Service MI5, and that he is currently the Chair of the Serious Organised Crime Agency i.e. the very agency which would be making use of increased opportunities for Data Mining and "fishing expiditions" ? Surely those are facts which are relevant to the impartiality of the quotatiton above ?
- There is also a throwaway line mentioning Identity Cards, but no mention of the National Identity Register centralised biometric database, as being of any use in fighting organised crime.
Will the Opposition parties oppose these evil proposals more effectively than they did with the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 Control Orders ?
If they do not, who can doubt, that next year, there will be a further widening of the scope of such Control Orders, without the need to prove a case, on actual evidence, in court, beyond reasonable doubt ?
Who will be next for "house arrest" and restrictions on mobile phones, on the internet and on financial transactions, without any actual proof of criminal activity ? Peaceful demonstrators ? Political opponents ? Journalists who embarrass the Governnment ? Readers of this blog ?