Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Taking organised crime serously

Labour government introduces new Secret Police. Well it had to be didn't it. Any announcement on policing these days has us all quoting Orwell before you can say aspidistra.

The BBC reports Soca's new powers (presumably quoting the press release) as:

  • Queen's evidence: Prosecutors will be able to offer statutory deals - immunity or reduced sentences - where, previously, deals were only informal
  • Financial reporting orders: Courts can make orders, of up to 20 years, forcing criminals to provide bank statements to ensure they have no crime-related earnings
  • Disclosure notices - Courts can force suspects to answer questions or provide documents or face imprisonment or fines. Limits the right to silence
  • Law enforcement officers: Soca officers will have the multiple powers of police, immigration and customs officers
and that
According to the Soca annual plan, published on Monday, the agency aims to spend 40% of its operational effort on drug trafficking, 25% on organised immigration crime, 10% on fraud and 15% on other organised crime.
Jock rallies to the defence of immigration which I think is missing the point. People trafficking is a nasty business - people end up in slavery in the sex industry or drowning on Morecombe sands. It is a heinous crime against the trafficked, and it is about time it was taken seriously. Drug trafficking should also be taken seriously - the libertarian fanboys would have it solved by legalisation, but even that wouldn't stop the murders and warlords in Colombia and other supplier countries.

The one thing missing from the list is terrorism. Why? Terrorism is the job of other agencies. And if a security-related agency is going to be abused for Orwellian political purposes, it will do it in the name of combating terrorism, not fraud or smuggling. This reaction against Soca is just a knee-jerk.

We might have some qualms about futher limits to the right of silence. But largely this is, for once, not about new powers but about better organisation. Perhaps even more funding. This is how the fight against terror should be conducted too, so why all the sneering and condemnation?

It is always tempting when confronted with a new government measure that is potentially open to abuse, to belittle the problem that it is seeking to solve. But this is a very bad idea. It will earn a reputation not just for being soft on crime, but being indifferent to it. All security-related agencies - the army, the police - all of them, have a potential for abuse, yet none of them should be disbanded, because the job they do is necessary. We need to raise our game against organised crime and we should welcome the SOCA.



Tristan said...

It is the same reaction as the one to the introduction of police in the first place: here is another organ of the state with even more powers over us.

Spy Blog also raises concerns about its remit, in that it takes over investigation of computer crime yet has no stated committment to it.

Jock Coats said...

I didn't know there were warlords and murders in the hopfields of Kent or the tobacco fields of Virginia!

There doesn't seem to be a huge problem in the coca fields of Peru or Bolivia except problems created by the US in particular's desire to forcibly eradicate this nutritious plant that millions have used for millennia from the face of the planet.

This is the same argument that Ian Blair uses against the Hampstead cocaine dinner party crowd he so rails about - that what they think is innocent fun that they should hve the choice to indulge in is killing people the world over. It's killing people right through the supply chain because it is an illegal chain top to bottom.

And I think enforcement is missing the point on the people trafficking thing. The way to disarm that is to create a world in which people do not need to up sticks and move at any risk.

As to the "same reaction" as when the police were introduced, well it is all a slippery slope. They are becoming more intrusive all the way through society. The original intention behind having different schedules for income tax, for example was that a different department was supposed to deal with each one so no one civil servant would ever know what you earned or owned in total. Seems like a good idea to me.

Joe Otten said...

Jock, your argument seems to be that we shouldn't worry too much about organised crime, because the people assaulted, killed and enslaved by it are just incidental to the provision of good things like travel, drugs, guns and so forth.

I would argue that regulation of drugs, guns and immigration are legitimate policy questions - that of course the impact of policy on organised crime should be taken into account, but need not be the only factor. And so once the law is agreed it should be enforced, and we should not give vicious thugs an easy ride because they do some things the immorality of which is contested.

AJE said...

hi Joe,

in case you missed it, I posted a reply to your comment: it's here, and am hoping you can share your thoughts