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CARA is coming

I can’t imagine that HMG enacts legislation with a view to spawning a whole new line of British pulp fiction novels and crime thrillers but it certainly sounds like it:

“New powers allowing police and customs officers to seize criminals’ assets come into force on Monday.

The Proceeds of Crime Act will mean that money can be confiscated from all types of criminals and not just drug dealers, as previous laws allowed.”

‘All types of criminals’?. Only the financially successful ones surely?

The Proceeds of Crime Act referred to in the article has established the Civil Assets Recovery Agency (CARA) as a branch of the police force empowered to confiscate assets from those ‘suspected’ of criminal activity.

“The new act will enable police and customs officers to search for cash anywhere in the UK and not just at the country’s borders as was previously allowed.

From now on they’ll be able to crash into your home and root around the sofa looking for lost coins. Don’t laugh, you can pick up quite a lot of money like that.

“Even when there is no criminal prosecution a new assets recovery agency can now step in.”

Which is to say, they can target anyone they want whenever they like and for reasons they will never have to prove and whilst that all sounds (and is) scary enough, I have every reason to believe that it is HMG that will regret this in the long run.

Most nominally law-abiding, work-a-day citizens will not be targeted and, consequently, will bask in blissful ignorance. No so the drug-runners and gangsters, who will be only too aware of it (they are always far better versed in the law than most citizens and quite a few lawyers) and the smart ones will regard CARA as a corruption charter. For relatively low-paid public officials, the lure of easy cash, cars or luxury goods is something to which they can all too easily become addicted. Processing law-breakers through the justice system is difficult and time-consuming. Surely much more tempting to let the gangsters get on with doing whatever it is they do and live off the earnings.

This isn’t about the government stopping criminals; this is about the government getting into bed with criminals. It’s a scriptwriters dream.

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8 comments to CARA is coming

  • Larry

    Be afraid. Very afraid.

    The history of these powers in the US, and their increasing abuse, will chill the hearts of all who read it.

    Consider the countless laws and regulations on the books, in all their opaque, confused glory. Today we’re all criminals, esp. those owning their own businesses.

    One small step for Her Majesty’s government. One big step to serfdom.

  • Julian Morrison

    I don’t get how it follows from “government nicks money from people merely accused of crime” to “government officials get into bed with criminals”. Care to explain what you mean?

  • David Carr

    Julian

    I apologise if I have been unclear.

    I think, over the long term, this will prove to be a corrupting process. The state will get addicted to the money streams that result from their looting the criminal classes (or alleged criminals I should say) and, given the nature of the government beast, they will not want this money stream to dry up. Therefore, it will be in their interests not to stop organised crime but to make sure it keeps operating and paying ‘danegeld’ to the government.

    In effect, organised crime and government become partners in the same enterprise.

  • Julian Morrison

    Ah, I get it. But I doubt that they will find it necessary to collude – the inter and intra-national drug/whoring/porn/gambling/etc market is simply such a productive sector that it can support quite a high level of “predation” even with the harshest and most uncorruptible “predators”.

  • I’m not so familiar with the UK asset seizure laws, but what is the timeline for the taking of assets under those laws? Is it the same as some of the jurisdictions here that your assets are frozen or out and out taken as soon as you are charged, making it almost impossible to recover your money or property even if the charges are dropped? Also, is there any sort of check against official abuse of these laws?

  • Kevin Connors

    Further, you will see police agencies targeting innocent people when they find their assets tempting. As when the Los Angeles County Sheriff thought a particular piece of land in Malibu would make a good training camp. The owner lost his life in the resulting “drug raid”.

  • Larry

    This is a big step for the UK, in the wrong direction.

    A brief links worth reading on our experience in the US. The government will kill you for your property. Better than bills of attainder. Actually, these are in essense bills of attainder.

    http://www.jhu.edu/~newslett/10-08-98/Opinions/2.htm

    A little time with Google will find stories about asset seizures that will chill your heart.

  • Tom

    Larry is absolutely right. I read James Bovard’s book, Lost Rights, which chronicles the dreadful abuse of asset forfeiture law in the U.S. There is no question that these powers can, and will, be used to shake certain wealthy individuals down.

    On a related issue, one could argue that the current vandalism of speed cameras in Britain is a result of a perception that such cameras are more about raising revenue than enforcing rules of the road. Increasingly, it seems the police in this country are blurring with the Inland Revenue.