October 28, 2009

Councils engaged in "War on Rubbish Days" to thank the FATF for new seizure powers..

How the war on drugs has become the war on you is an ongoing topic. However, ordinary people would generally dismiss this as more ranting blogs and kooksterising. Until it happens, in which case we simply present the evidence and hope we don't get caught in the cross-fire. From Britain, spotted by Charon QC and noosphere:

Councils get ‘Al Capone’ power to seize assets over minor offences

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. The radical extension of the Proceeds of Crime Act, through a Statutory Instrument which is not debated by parliament, has been condemned by the chairman of the Police Federation. ...

My reading of the article is that this is a done deal. In a new rendition of that old Chinese curse, be careful what you wish for, it seems that the police (Federation) are now opposed to the ill-thought-out extensions of seizure powers.

Paul McKeever said that he was shocked to learn that the decision to hand over “intrusive powers” to people who were not police was made without consultation or debate.

“The Proceeds of Crime Act is a very powerful tool in the hands of police and police-related agencies and it shouldn’t be treated lightly,” Mr McKeever said. “There is a behind the scenes creep of powers occurring here and I think the public will be very surprised. They 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.”

His concerns are shared by leading legal figures, who believe that there is a risk of local authorities abusing the powers to search people’s homes, seize their money, freeze their accounts and confiscate their property. They also see parallels with the spread of counter-terrorist surveillance powers to monitor refuse collections and school catchment areas.

They're shocked now, but wait until the councils ask them for advice on how to meet new and rising Home Office profitability targets. Wait, I know! A new role for the FATF: business development for County Police, Local Councils and other stationary Princes.

Wideranging confiscation powers were given to police and law enforcement bodies in 2003 to seize the cash and property from drug dealers, people-traffickers and money launderers. They were viewed as “Al Capone powers” — a means of getting at the Mr Bigs of organised crime by seizing wealth accrued from criminality. David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, said law enforcement was targeting “the homes, yachts, mansions and luxury cars of the crime barons”.

The expansion of seizure powers is part of a Home Office plan to “embed” financial seizure across the criminal justice system. Ministers set a target to recover £250 million in criminal assets by 2010, rising to £1 billion per year soon after.

Three weeks ago I wrote where this was heading: Mexico. I gave it 20 years, and now it's 20 days later.

Put yourself in the shoes the Mr Bigs that this targets; do you think they are trembling in their evil boots at the thought of the rubbish police coming after them? Or, are they seeing new opportunities for corporate expansion? Or, are they worried they need to move fast to stake out the territory before the Mr Not-So-Big from across town gets a jump on them?

Posted by iang at October 28, 2009 04:39 AM | TrackBack

Wild speculation: I wonder if the Economist got a tip-off on the secret Statutory Instrument?

Posted by: Iang at October 28, 2009 06:15 AM

@ Iang,

I would guess that it was entirly predictable, and I have been expecting similar for some time now.

Put simply Gordon Brown (now PM) far from being financial prudent has been the most proflagate waster of UK resources one way or another ever since he has had power.

Having raised taxes to the point he could not raise them further he went on stelth tax raids on UK pensions etc, and now most of the available money pots are dry and the cupbord is bare the only option was to stop paying money out.

Now as most have come to realise a lot of Government spending is realy a bribe to floating voters and vested interests. So cutting down on this is a sure election loser in his eyes.

So this means cutting back on other spending that the UK elector does not directly see.

Welcom to the world of local councils who get a very large chunk of UK taxation to spend localy.

Well as the councils also raise money by local property taxation as well it is an oportunity to "fix things".

When the Deputy Priminister was "two Jags" a series of changes to planning permission where brought in as well as requirments to oversee landlords etc.

The result was back door raising of local council income that was then balanced by a reduction of money from central Gov.

The various "waste incentives" that you have read about are again a way for councils to raise money directly and for less to come out of central government coffers.

Other things that are in the pipeline is for local councils to put a surcharge in property taxes based on "scenic views" and "well apointed homes". Also it has been talked about getting direct access to "store loyalty" credit/debit card info so that more afluent post codes can be identified and local taxation increased in those areas (however no talk about decreasing if you have a chemical plant on your back door and nobody in your post code has the credit rating to get plastic...)

Public transport franchises supposadly can be taken away for poor performance. South West Trains had such poor performance it looked like there was no way they could hang onto their rail franchise. What did SWT do, they said they would pay the Tresury more money than any of the compeating bids and low and behold we are still stuck with their P155 Poor Performance.

Then there is "off book" spending via Public Private Finance/intiatives.

This is where the government does not borrow money by public sector borowing or treasury bonds (the lowest cost option to the tax payer) no they enter into an agrement where they give a company the basic assets (land etc) and they build and manage a school/hospital/etc on it. The company then gets anything upto 25% of the equivalent capital expenditure each year for the next 30 years and gets to keep the assets at the end of it.

The nice thing as far as Gordon Brown is concerned the expenditure is hidden from his public accounts.

He can say he has put an extra 4Billion or whatever into Health or Education forgetting to mention PFI slurps out that and more...

I could go on and on with other examples but I think you get the general idea...

Posted by: Clive Robinson at October 28, 2009 10:47 AM

It is getting worse by the day,


"Bonuses for lawyers who seize criminal assets 'risk undermining justice'

Crown Prosecution Service lawyers are receiving personal bonuses linked to their success in confiscating criminal assets, The Times has learnt.

About £1.37 million has been paid in personal bonuses to staff over the past two financial years, the CPS disclosed under Freedom of Information legislation. It did not say what proportion was for hitting confiscation targets, but the disclosure will add to concern among lawyers that providing financial incentives to prosecutors could undermine the criminal justice system."

More in the article.

Posted by: gyges at November 2, 2009 08:57 AM

@ gyges,

"Bonuses for [CPS] lawyers who seize criminal assets"

Just goes to show that there is no justice in the UK...

One thought does occure though what happens when assetts have to be returned due to wrongfull conviction etc...

Oh and I would not be to surprised if we went back to the old system where the tax collectors get a percentage of the take.

In all cases expect to see the "street clamper" mentality take over the organisational thinking and coruption to become well and truly entrnched in the system.

Posted by: Clive Robinson at November 6, 2009 08:41 AM

... Victimization studies also show that the crime rate in Britain is far higher than in most other European countries. Comparative analyses show England and Wales at the very top of the European crime leagues—and well above the U.S. as well. ...

Posted by: Brits lead Europe .. in crime! at November 7, 2009 10:50 AM
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