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Words fail me

Community Veteran
Posts: 38,251
Thanks: 937
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Registered: 15-06-2007

Words fail me

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article6892830.ece
Quote
Draconian police powers designed to deprive crime barons of luxury lifestyles are being extended to councils, quangos and agencies to use against the public, The Times has learnt.
The right to search homes, seize cash, freeze bank accounts and confiscate property will be given to town hall officials and civilian investigators employed by organisations as diverse as Royal Mail, the Rural Payments Agency and Transport for London.
The measure, being pushed through by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, comes into force next week and will deploy some of the most powerful tools available to detectives against fare dodgers, families in arrears with council tax and other minor offenders.
74 REPLIES
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,850
Registered: 11-08-2007

Re: Words fail me

how can any of that be legal?  or have we thrown the rule book out?
nadger
Rising Star
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Registered: 13-04-2007

Re: Words fail me

Really makes you think of this doesn't it  Angry
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,699
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Words fail me

This sounds like someone trying to grab a headline.
The Proceeds of Crime legislation has been in for some time, and it's not open only to the police.  Certainly Trading Standards has had the opportunity to use it for a long time, but it's not as easy as it sounds (and neither should it be).
Firstly there has to be a criminal conviction
Then you have to identify the crime as a "lifestyle" crime
Then you have to identify how much money the convicted criminal has accumulated by means of their criminal activity.
Then you can go to the courts to try and get them to make a confiscation order.
This all takes time, and in the meantime, you need to stop the convicted criminal from moving all of their assets across to someone else, in order to get out of handing them over.
The purpose is to take away the benefit of crime (fines don't often cover the amount made by the criminal), and  to get across to criminals that "crime doesn't pay"
As to powers to enter your home - many people already have those powers.  Certainly if you use your home as a place of business, then Trading Standards has a power to enter, at any reasonable time, to check that you're operating that business legally (obviuosly I'm paraphrasing, and simplifying)
You've never heard of that power being abused, because if it was ever taken away, then Trading Standards would not be able to bring to book those rogue traders who operate from their home (and that would be all of them), because all they'd have to do is keep any incriminating documents at home, and get rid of them or move them, when they knew that Trading Standards Officers were coming.
John
Community Veteran
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Registered: 10-08-2007

Re: Words fail me

Quote
town hall officials and civilian investigators

It is this phrase that concerns me.
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,699
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Words fail me

"Town Hall officials" includes Trading Standards Officers (in unitaries), Environemental Health Officers, as well as social workers, health and safety officers, highways officers, to name but a few.  Which ones do you not want to do their jobs.
John
dick:quote
Community Veteran
Posts: 38,251
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Registered: 15-06-2007

Re: Words fail me

from the article
Quote
Councils and other bodies had access to asset recovery powers before but only with with the authorisation and involvement of the police. Now they will be able to act independently of any police force or law enforcement agency.
<snip>
The POCA powers . . .
• Freezing a suspect’s assets at the beginning of a criminal investigation
• Presumption that all an individual’s assets are acquired through a criminal lifestyle

• Search for and confiscate cash of £1,000 or more
• Demand that banks and other institutions disclose financial information
• Seek confiscation order for assets after a conviction
• Collect a share of confiscated assets Councils in England and Wales Could seize assets from people in council tax arrears or parking fine defaulters
Gangmasters Licensing Authority Might seize property from someone profiting from underpaying wages
Counter Fraud and Security Management Service Investigating prescription fraud and theft by NHS staff
Gambling Commission Could seize assets from rigged betting rings
Rural Payments Agency Could confiscate money from farmers fraudulantly claiming agricultural grants
Financial Services Authority City regulator could seize assets of those convicted of insider dealing
Vehicle and Operator Services Agency Could pursue profit made by haulier defrauding MoT or licensing laws
Transport for London Could go after assets of fare dodgers or ticket forgers
Royal Mail Might confiscate assets from a fraudulent postmaster or employee
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency Could recoup profits from sale of counterfeit medicines
Community Veteran
Posts: 38,251
Thanks: 937
Fixes: 56
Registered: 15-06-2007

Re: Words fail me

Quote from: hulls
"Town Hall officials" includes Trading Standards Officers (in unitaries), Environemental Health Officers, as well as social workers, health and safety officers, highways officers, to name but a few.  Which ones do you not want to do their jobs.
John
Which of the above need these draconian powers to actually do their job
Community Veteran
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Registered: 10-08-2007

Re: Words fail me

Quote from: hulls
This sounds like someone trying to grab a headline.
sounds more like the exposure of another erosion of civil liberties to me.
Denzil
Grafter
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Registered: 31-07-2007

Re: Words fail me

All the items on that list imply recovering goods/money from people after they have been convicted of some crime. Sounds fine to me.
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,699
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Words fail me

Like I said, the idea is to take the money that people have made from crime (the clue's in the name - Proceeds of Crime).  The authorities have to show that the money they are confiscating was obtained by criminal means, so someone in a £20,000 a year job, is convicted of drug offences, and it's shown that in a given year, they've spent £100,000 the extra £80,000 was probably obtained from drugs, and is likely to be confiscated.  In the meantime, the criminal has "given" his Porsche, house, and anything else he owns to his "partner", so that when the judge says "that'll be £80,000 please" he can say, but I don't own anything.
It's not as simple as walking into someone's home and taking their bank books.
John
Community Veteran
Posts: 38,251
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Registered: 15-06-2007

Re: Words fail me

You are missing the worst parts
Quote
• Freezing a suspect’s assets at the beginning of a criminal investigation
• Presumption that all an individual’s assets are acquired through a criminal lifestyle
So that before conviction you can have all your assets frozen and after conviction you have to prove that the assets weren't from the proceeds of crime.
A bit like the pharmacist who was convicted of making false prescripytion claims and unlawfully obtaining £464 was subjected to a confiscation order for £212,000 because he was presumed to be a career criminal.
This is the same mission creep which saw the anti-terrorism surveillance law being used by local councils for, among other things, checking on whether a parent was living in a school's catchement area.
Legislation which was passed by Parliament to hit drug dealers and big career criminals now will be able to bw used for very minor offences and part of the proceeds will go to the relevant authority.
A bit like giving traffic wardens a bonus based on the amount of fines they impose.
Denzil
Grafter
Posts: 1,733
Registered: 31-07-2007

Re: Words fail me

But there would still have to be reasonable justification for freezing assets. If they couldn't freeze assets in advance, all the crims would just hide the money as soon as they knew they were in trouble.
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,699
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Words fail me

Correct.  You have to at least have a prima facie case to show a court, and then you have to be able to show that the sums work.  The reason the law was brought in was because we (the public) were complaining that criminals could make so much money by crime, that the derisory fines and jail terms didn't put them off.  OK make your couple of hundred thousand take the 6 months in prison and still have the £200,000 (all expenses paid)
Like I said before, you start from the crime, and then look for the proceeds of that crime, then you take the proceeds away from the criminal.  If there's no criminal conviction, there's no proceeds of crime.
John
Community Veteran
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Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Words fail me

Quote from: Oldjim

A bit like the pharmacist who was convicted of making false prescripytion claims and unlawfully obtaining £464 was subjected to a confiscation order for £212,000 because he was presumed to be a career criminal.

The £212,000 wouldn't have been plucked from thin air.  If his accounts showed an income from his legitimate business, that was what he earned.  Of course if he was fiddling his accounts to get out of paying tax as well, then the sums become very muddled.
John