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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Evidence, Who needs it ??????????????

'Super-asbos' to target gangsters

Up to 30 major criminals a year could be given new civil orders restricting their involvement in organised crime, the Home Office has said.

The orders, dubbed "super-asbos", would target those suspected of drug dealing, money-laundering and human trafficking.

They form part of the government's proposed Serious Crime Bill which aims to hit the UK's "Mr Bigs" before trial.

Civil rights group Liberty has dismissed the proposed orders as "unfair and ineffective".

The Serious Crime Bill is also expected to strengthen powers to seize assets such as cash, properties and cars from criminals.

Breaching the new orders could lead to a five-year prison term.

Home Secretary John Reid called for cross-party support for the new laws.

"We are bringing in reforms to get the Mr Bigs of the organised crime world," he said.

"We hope this will have a huge impact, and we hope opposition parties will give the support necessary rather than what they have done every time we have tried to bring in strong powers to tackle crime and terrorism, which is vote against them and claim they aren't strong enough."

Analysis: Targeting Mr Bigs

This is sort of an Al Capone bill - you know, if we can't get you on one, we'll get you on another.
Former deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police John Stalker
But critics warned the measures would see individuals targeted without their guilt being proven.

Jago Russell, policy officer for civil rights group Liberty, said: "We used to believe in hard evidence and fair trials in this country - now we dispense rapid-fire justice as quickly as the government can develop a catchy four-letter acronym for it.

"These new orders targeted at the 'Mr Bigs' of the criminal world will likely be as unfair and ineffective as Asbos and control orders before them."

'Not the answer'

And former deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police John Stalker told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that the government was going down a dangerous route.

He added: "My view is that criminals should be dealt with under the criminal law and that Asbos, super-asbos as these are being called, are not the answer to heavyweight criminals. They maybe OK for hoodies on the street but they are not for heavyweight criminals.

"This is sort of an Al Capone bill - you know, if we can't get you on one, we'll get you on another."

But Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said the measures would be a major weapon in combating "untouchable" criminals.

Financial, property or business dealings
Working arrangements
People who can be associated or communicated with
Access to premises
Travel in the UK or abroad

He said: "There are people who try to stay remote from crime, who try to encourage crime but never get their hands dirty.

"We want to ensure that, while our methods are proportionate, we can get to them.

"People who believe they are beyond the law and untouchable will know that the government is on the side of the ordinary law-abiding majority."

The serious crime prevention orders would be applied for by the Crown Prosecution Service, Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office or the Serious Fraud Office.

An order could be imposed by the courts if they believed, on the balance of probability, that the suspect had acted in a way which helped or was likely to help a serious crime.

Orders would also be used if courts felt it was necessary and proportionate to prevent such criminal harm in the future.

It would be a High Court civil order that could be challenged in the Court of Appeal.

Targeting 'Mr Bigs' of serious crime

Perhaps they're not untouchable - but they are very hard to reach.

They are the serious criminals leading the gangs responsible for drug dealing, human trafficking and fraud.

They don't get their hands dirty selling crack, cocaine or heroin on street corners or driving the lorries bringing in illegal immigrants.

But they give out the orders and rake in the proceeds of the illicit activities, remaining at arms length from the crimes, thus evading prosecution.

They're the ones the Home Office is after. The roots of the crime tree, rather than the twigs at the top.

Achieving successful prosecutions against these "Mr Bigs" is a long haul.

Evidence they've made phone calls or emailed associates won't be enough to guarantee a conviction. Nor will a large stash of cash underneath the sofa, a flash car, a yacht or even a villa in Marbella.

It may point to their involvement but what's needed in a criminal trial is 99.9% proof.

That will arrive only if an insider gives information to police or if extensive surveillance of a suspect reveals something incriminating. And that's time consuming, expensive and extremely complicated.

Travel restrictions

So ministers are now trying another tack - disruption - to make life so difficult for the individuals suspected of criminality that they can't operate their illegal enterprises.

To do that, an order from the High Court will be obtained restricting their travel, communications and business dealings.

The High Court will grant the request if it's satisfied that the individual is involved in criminality on the balance of probabilities - 51% proof.

The measure is similar to an Asbo but may prove to be harder to enforce.

The suspects to be targeted will probably be able to instruct the best lawyers around and they'll rake over the details of the legislation and the court orders looking for loopholes.

They'll be able to make representations to the High Court and take their case to the Court of Appeal if they lose.

False passports

Don't rule out further appeals to the House of Lords and the European Courts, either, to query important legal principles.

Even if the courts come down against them and impose an order, it still has to be enforced, without the use of electronic tags - the government has ruled that out.

Bear in mind, these people can probably get hold of a false passport at a snap of their fingers.

Of course, as more orders are made the room for legal argument may diminish while the prospect of a five-year prison term for breaching an order will make some suspects toe the line.

But history suggests that applying civil powers to tackle organised crime is fraught with problems - look how hard it's been for the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) to confiscate illegal earnings and property from suspects.

It's an irony that may not be lost on those responsible for tackling organised crime that the Bill proposing serious crime prevention orders also paves the way for the abolition of the ARA - its functions to be taken over by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

Art Hostage comments:

This yet another example of the Brit govt admitting defeat in the war against organised crime.
The only way they think they can disrupt criminality is to undermine the British legal system and move to a more authoritarian model as seen in dictatorships.

The presumption of innocence has been thrown out of the window and this like many other headline grabs will falter as soon as the publicity finishes.

If the govt were to properly fund law enforcement they would be able to operate in a productive manner.
It reminds me of the little Dutch boy who put his finger in the Dyke.

The way things are going Britain will have an honest trustworthy police force who do not make deals, never pay rewards, and best of all, cannot solve any serious crime, even if fell on them.

Intelligence down 90%, solving of serious crime down drastically, criminals acting with impunity.

I wonder if lawyers went to the High court and said that it is 51% certain that Tony Blair did have involvement in the cash for questions scandal and he should be given a super ASBO to restrict him from committing further white collar crime, would the Judge agree,using the new criteria I really think the Judge would???????
So, John Reid, Tony Blair, be careful what you wish for, it may come back to haunt you and bite your arse !!No Gold Watch for Tony Blair on his retirement, just a pair of steel bracelets !!

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