Good old Labour. In an attempt to make Britain a safer and better place to be, they have devised yet another way to terrorise the public into ensuring that we never, ever commit even the most minor of crimes. Beware you fare-dodgers and council tax shirkers, for under an extension of the Proceeds of Crime Act you too can join the ranks of Drug Baron and SuperPimp by having your home raided, cash confiscated and assets frozen. However, it won’t be the bobby breaking down your door, it will be a new army of power-crazy councils, quangos and agencies.
Alan Johnson is expected to announce the measure next week. Sneaking it in through a Statutory Instrument, there will be no need for MPs to debate the issue, and so bodies such as Local Councils, TfL and the Royal Mail can expect to use these powers independent from police control fairly swiftly.
However, Labour instructs us not to panic. Each empowered body will receive ‘financial investigators’ trained and monitored by a quango. This is a very good thing apparently, because they become “less reliant on more traditional law enforcement agencies” like the pesky police. Quite right, why should someone trained in upholding the law decide when the right time to confiscate somebody’s wealth is, when a faceless bureaucrat would do so much more eagerly? We are assured that this extension shall not be exploited or abused; presumably in the same way that anti-terrorism legislation has not been used to rifle through bins and deny school places. The move will also boost the fight against crime and free up police time, although the memo neglects to mention if it will also increase bureaucracy, direct resources towards hunting petty offenders and increase paranoia amongst citizens every time they fail to ‘touch in’ with their oyster card.
It would be quite easy to assume that most bodies given these new powers will scarcely use them, deciding they should focus on their real jobs and that if a criminal deserves to have assets frozen that is a matter for the police. However, the promise of a cut of the confiscations may just be alluring enough to encourage use of the POCA left, right and centre.
These new measures are draconian, invasive and rather unnerving, threatening each and every one of us with having our means of survival cut off for the slightest misdemeanor. It seems that no act is too low, no sum of money too small for Labour to try and plug the deficit with it.