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Councils to get asset seize powers

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Local councils will be allowed to seize assets from minor offenders

The Proceeds of Crime Act has never been a huge success raising a piffling amount of money from drug barons and organised crime, piffling when compared against the costs of running the operation. So it is unlikely that this move from Alan Johnson will fare much better, the Home Secretary is introducing the measure using a Statutory Instrument which will prevent it being debated iin Parliament, not a good way to get a new initiative off the ground. It allows us all to see a little more of NuLabour’s creeping intrusion into areas where, to be honest, councils have no business, such asset confiscation orders should remain as they are administered by the courts with the proceeds somehow going towards offsetting the costs of collection.

The interesting point in this article is the stance of the Police Federation who are concerned that “intrusive powers” are to be given to people who are not police:

“The Proceeds of Crime Act is a very powerful tool in the hands of the police and police-related agencies and it shouldn’t be treated lightly.”

Paul McKeever added:

the public would “would want such very intrusive powers to be kept in the hands of warranted officers and other law enforcement bodies which are vetted to a very high standard rather than given to local councils”.

You will note that at a time when I and many others are calling for greater caution in handing further powers to our police forces, we see a representative of the Police Federation grasping and fighting to hang on to powers that they already have, in fear of losing them to the incompetents who run other organisations presumably. However, perhaps he has a point.

Shadow communities secretary Caroline Spelman adds:

“We have already seen how surveillance laws designed to tackle terror and serious crime have been routinely abused and over-used by town hall officials.

“I fear these new powers to inspect financial records and seize assets will also end up being misused and will divert resources to minor breaches like being late in paying a parking fine.”

We do seem to be treading a precarious path with this one, and an ill thought out Statutory Instrument was not the best way to test the hypothesis that it would work, the right thing for Mr. Johnson and his Home Office team to do is to introduce an amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act and allow it to be fully debated and tested in the Houses of Parliament.

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Written by curly

October 29, 2009 at 11:41 am

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