Once again, we do nothing….

Thanks to The Times it has come to light that the government are once again about to show us their utter disregard for due process and good sense when it comes to attempting to plug the massive black hole in the finances spawned by their epic overspending.

A few years back, the 'Proceeds of Crime Act' was put onto the statute books. This was legislation designed to deprive crime barons of luxury lifestyles when they finally emerged, blinking, into the daylight outside Wormwood Scrubs. And this was only right, after all why should they be living in a 12 bedroomed mansion built on getting scrotes to sell crack to kids in playgrounds, why should importing Romanian women into Britain for use in the sex trade allow these people to spend 6 months a years cruising the Carribean on an 80 foot yacht? But this legislation is about to be extended beyond Albanian Al Capones towards a brand new target – the general public. Why? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin….

The right to search properties, seize cash, freeze bank accounts and confiscate property is from next week, on the orders of the Home Secretary Alan Johnson, to be extended to councils, quangos and agencies to use against the public for a range of minor infringements, including (but definately not limited to) fare dodging, non payment of parking fines and being in arrears on your council tax. And what's more they're going to be bribed to use these new powers. According to an explanatory memorandum, "Investigation bodies will receive a share of monies recovered as additional funding in order to incentivise further work in recovering the proceeds of crime." In other words, the more you collect, the more we'll give you. Bribery, nice. The same memo informs us that the explantion of seizure powers is part of a Home Office plan to embed financial seizure across the criminal justice system. Like all good government plans should, it comes with collection of targets set by ministers – to recover £250m in criminal assets by 2010 rising to £1bn per year soon after. The police are far too busy trying to reach their other targets, fill in paperwork and finish reading their diversity and equality handbooks to have the time to confiscate a billion quids worth of Russian mafia money so the task of leading the government's truffle-hunt for bailout cash has been handed to people who frankly don't do anything useful with their time anyway – local councils, quangos and agencies. Yes ladies and gents, the government is now bribing Transport for London to launch a smash and grab on the holiday fund of the pimply youth seen hurdling the ticket barrier at Waterloo Tube and to remove the car of the family at number 23 who are now 4 months behind on the council tax without even having the decency to be living solely on benefits.  What's even more alarming  is that whereas a confiscation under the old system required an order to be issued by a court and administered by the police, there is no such regard for proof and due process under the new system. The councils will be allowed to seize over £1000 of cash from your house completely independently of any court or law enforcement body. Anyone else see the irony that the police have to have permission from a court that has studied availbale evidence before seizing the assets of major criminals but your local council doesn't have to ask anyone for permission to raid the piggy bank of an ordinary person while they're at work?

Even the police are horrified – Paul McKeever, Chairman of the Police Federation said that 'There is a behind the scenes creep of power here and I think the public would be very surpised'. You'd be very wrong there Paul, we're not surprised at all because this government has been leading a stealth attack on civil liberties for some time now. Holding terror suspects without charge for 28 days (they wanted 42), the demand for closed courts without juries in terrorism cases and that's before we even start on the Civil Contingencies Act. There's no basic right too big or too small to receive a massive kick in the spuds from Tony Blair/ Gordon Brown and the Cabinet stormtroopers. Britain, land of free speech, as long as your free speech doesn't offend anyone, doesn't involve public speaking in a group of more than 3 people and doesn't involve taking a photo of the police. All of these things can get you busted. In one way I suppose I am surprised – surprised it's taken them this long to find a way of extracting more cash from the general public while pretending they're trying to do something noble.

The legal profession aren't happy either. One judge said "It looks like this has been sneaked through". It looks like that for a reason, my learned friend. Sir Ivan Lawrence, QC, asked "Does anyone in government understand that if you give prosecutors, who are supposed to be unbiased ministers of justice, the bribe of a proportion of the money they can find, you are actually poisoning the roots of justice in our society?". Yes Sir Ivan, they do realise, they just don't care. As we've seen by the whole expenses debacle, when it comes to a choice between money and morals, precious few of our ruling elite will take the ethical path.

The new powers that these agencies etc will have include: freezing a suspect's assets at the BEGINNING of an investigation, presumption that all assets are acquired through a criminal lifestyle, searching and confiscating cash of £1000 or more, demanding that banks and other institutions disclose financial information, seeking confiscation of assets after conviction and collecting a share of of confiscated assets. "Innocent until proven guilty' is clearly SO last season. Do you really want your local council to have these powers to use against you, given that they've already used anti-terrorism laws to spy on whether people are recycling correctly and fine them accordingly? Tough, because by the end of the week they will.

The agencies that will have the new powers are: councils in England and Wales, Gangmasters Licensing Authority, Counter Fraud and Security Management Service, Gambling Commission, Rural Payments Agency, Financial Services Authority, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, Transport for London, Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and everyone's favourite strike-ridden shambles, Royal Mail.

And the government's justification for this appalling stampede over justice and fair play? According to an unnamed Home Office Spokesman (presumably refusing to give his name in order to avoid being associated with the crap his boss hasn't got the balls to spout himself and so has sent him to deal with) said that "Seizing ill-gotten gains is a key part of the fight against criminals – whether it is from small-time offences or organised crime". Leaving aside the fact that refusing to pay a parking fine is hardly accruing 'ill-gotten gains', does anyone actually believe they are doing this for the good of the country? Pull the other one sunshine, it's attached to the foghorn.  It's a revenue-raiser, pure and simple, and the real tragedy of the whole thing is that the great British public have once again walked right into it without so much as a whimper. Countries have revolted over lesser insults to their rights than our current administration have issued but yet we do nothing but grumble politely. Sometimes I wonder if we don't deserve everything that this revolting collection of mendacious bastards throw at us.

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20 Responses

  1. What is this 'civil liberties' you talk about? Last I heard it went the way of the Dodo along with white dog poo!

  2. so due process no longer exists in england,and they have alrady taken your guns………

  3. That's the terrifying thing, if you look through what has been out in place in recent years, it really doesn't take that much for you to fall foul of the 'anti-terror' laws. The problem is that people didn't object at the time because these laws only applied to 'nasty foreigners', 'dark skinned people who don't speak English' and 'dodgy Eastern european crime barons' but they are FULL of clauses that allow them to be extended without debate through parliament, so when the laws are now turned against the average man on the street it's too late, he can't do anyhting about it. We've sleepwalked into Stasiland and we've lost our chance to do anything to stop it.

  4. Oh dear, you have a ken, shame, I liked your blog. I tend to stay away from blogs that haven't blocked that idiot.

  5. I'm wondering if I might be able to claim political asylum in the Maldives….

  6. It's astonishing – it completely ignores the fundamental basis of UK law which is, surely, 'innocent until proven guilty'. Absolutely horrifying.

  7. Plus it's all done in a very hush hush manner, which suggests to me that they know bloody well they're doing something horrific but they just don't want anyone else finding out before it's too late to change things. Bastards.

  8. Laws can always be repealed – although of course better that they're not passed in the first place! Bastards indeed.

  9. What in the name of holy crap is this about?? I must've been asleep when they announced this fairly and officially as they should with every other single law they have passed through in this country.
    So how's this going to work on non-payment of a speeding fine then? You get fined for speeding, refuse to pay and take it to court but meanwhile your car and other assets are seized thus making things more difficult in getting to the court in the area where this happened and therefore nullifying your right to a fair trial to be found guilty in your absence, then not being able to pay the fine plus costs because you've had your stuff seized?
    Bollocks. Has anyone started one of those pointless No.10 petitions about this? I'll sign, for all the good it will do.

  10. They don't want to repeal them, if you think about all the major pieces of legislation that have been passed in recent times, how many of them have been about either monitoring or controlling the public, the way they live, act think, behave etc. This lot are obsessed with micro-managing every aspect of people's lives and they won't be happy until they've stuck a bloody microchip in all of us and run us via remote control. They're all nuts, I'm telling you.

  11. That's about the size of it PeteGraham, yes. They won't have to ask permission form a court either, they'll just ramraid your front door and remove your cash. They do I think have to ask for permission to confiscate an actual property but the very fact that Royal Mail have been given the power to demand a property scares the bejesus out of me. What the hell is going on here? It's madness. And you're right, this did go through very quietly and I seriously doubt that was a coincidence.

  12. You're not wrong. I remember reading a comment by the Chief Constable who has Manchester on his patch saying something like "On any given weekend, I don't know who's in my city." If I'm in Manchester, minding my own business and not breaking any laws, it's none of his bloody business if I'm there …

  13. Riiiight. I'm getting to thinking now, there's loopholes in stuff like this. If I remember rightly, should a bailiff turn up at your door they cannot force their way in, lest that be trespassing on your property. There was an urban myth (at least I think it is, more research needed) about someone being in your house without permission – particularly in your bedroom – you may defend yourself if you feel threatened. I sleep in the presence of 2 ladies; one is Jemma, the other is Susie – who happens to be a 42" Katana sword. Perhaps I'd better leave it at that…

  14. That is scary stuff Vicola….but I suspect we have all sorts of legislative powers sneaked quietly through parliament here as well that might have the same effect.I was always astounded that the US claiming to be the worlds greatest democracy could lock up one of our citizens (Australia, like the UK being one of their closest allies in the Iraq debacle) in Guantanamo Bay for years without the possibility of any sort of trial before judge and jury.

  15. They won't need to break into your house PeteGraham, they can go straight for your bank account. Although I think they will also have the power to break into your property. Mind you, the chances of them finding enough cash in my bank account to pay a parking fine or council tax any time after about the 8th of the month are somewhat minimal. And I'll fight to the death for the car…

  16. I always found that appalling as well. And hypocritical – picking people up and incarcerating for years without a trial, isn't that what Saddam did? If we as a civilised world gave a damn about democracy and the living conditions of a nation we'd have had a wholesale presence in the Congo years back but we didn't. Because the powers that be only care about money and oil. Hence Iraq.

  17. Absolutely fucking outrageous!

  18. Why do I pay £1 every day to read a newspaper and the journalists can't come up with this chestnut sooner? This is truly horrifying. Very good blog today, by the way.

  19. Thanks! What baffles me about newspapers now is how they are so concencerned with celebrity crap rather than news. On the Sunday Times front page there was something about Stephen Fry quitting Twitter. Who gives a shit? That's not news, it's mindless trivia. And almost every publication in the land now carries an article about Cheryl bloody Cole. I'd rather read about stuff that's going to make a difference to my life than a progress report on Ms Cole's planning application for a swimming pool.

  20. A letter was published in the Guardian letter's page a while back suggesting they come clean on what must surely be a financial interest in Twitter, given the amount of coverage it gives…. Still haven't come clean but they can't go a day or two without saying something about it. I think a lot of it is lazy journalism – on press releases etc rather than investigation. They did excellent coverage of Ian Tomlinson's death, but have clearly dropped the ball on this one.

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