Not Saussure

January 18, 2007

Serious crime bill II — illegal fishermen and flytippers beware

Filed under: civil liberties — notsaussure @ 8:46 pm

Further to my comments on Serious Crime Orders, I see from The Daily Telegraph that ‘serious crime’ embraces not just drug smuggling and the like but also offences such as

fishing for trout with a line left unattended in the water. Depositing controlled waste without a licence. And anything else that a court considers to be sufficiently serious.

As they say,

Imagine then that you have made it easier for people to fish unfairly — perhaps by selling lures or bait. Imagine the police think you might be planning to sell wheelbarrows to fly-tippers in future.

The court will then be able to close down your business and your bank account, stop you going to work, ban you from using the phone or email, prevent you from meeting people, exclude you from your home or any other premises, stop you using any items and prevent you from travelling anywhere. And anything else the court considers appropriate for protecting the public.

‘No, no, of course we’d never use the law in that way,” I hear Ministers say, in an irritated manner. Quite possibly not, but the way these sweeping powers are drafted someone certanly could thus use them if he wanted to, without the necessity of involving a jury or proving anything other than some vague ‘involvement’ in criminal activities to the civil standard.

And giving government such sweeping and ill-defined powers does not seem to me a particularly wise thing to do.

The Telegraph have an audio interview with their Joshua Rozenberg here (mp3) that spells out the implications.

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  1. Giving themselves sweeping and ill-defined powers seems to be all Government gets up to these days.


    Comment by IanWhickham — January 18, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  2. The current government has brought in a whole series of laws that would be very easy to abuse, in each case accompanied by assurances that they will only be used against “bad” people. The problem is who defines what a “bad person is”.

    When ASBOs can be used to stop someone feeding birds in their garden and anti-terrorism laws can be used to detain a heckler at a party conference, can we really trust the government with this kind of open ended draconian power ?

    Comment by Andrew — January 19, 2007 @ 9:11 am

  3. As LBJ once said: “You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered.”

    Comment by archrights — January 19, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

  4. Leaving an unattended trout line? Punishable by hanging, I believe.

    Comment by james higham — January 19, 2007 @ 7:01 pm

  5. But we have the government’s assurances that these measures are needed so that

    “People who believe they are beyond the law and untouchable will know that the government is on the side of the ordinary law-abiding majority.”

     And, as the Prime Minister himself has explained,

    Each time someone is the victim of ASB, of drug related crime;  each time an illegal immigrant enters the country or a perpetrator of organised fraud or crime walks free, someone else’s liberties are contravened, often directly, sometimes as part of wider society.  It’s no use saying that in theory there should be no conflict between the traditional protections for the suspect and the rights of the law-abiding majority because, as a result of the changing nature of crime and society, there is, in practice, such a conflict;  and every day we don’t resolve it, by rebalancing the system, the consequence is not abstract, it is out there, very real on our streets.

    Those of use who cling to the principle that suspects are part of the law-abiding majority, too, until either they plead guily or a jury finds them so, are failing to recognise that we’re defending 

    a system built not for another decade but another age.  So we end up fighting 21st century problems with 19thcentury solutions 

    And we can’t have that, surely?  

    Comment by notsaussure — January 19, 2007 @ 7:06 pm

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