July 18, 2006
Gosh, how wonderful, Blair’s done it again! A perfect solution to the problems of crime and criminals. Let’s punish them without having a trial! No evidence? Never mind, slap a control order on them!
Don’t you think that’s a super solution?
Crime bosses who cannot be prosecuted for lack of evidence will be given a ''super-Asbo'' to try to disrupt their activities, the Home Office said yesterday.
department plans to introduce serious crime prevention orders (SCPOs),
which will be issued by the civil courts against suspected underworld
The proposed SCPO would be like an anti-social behaviour order in setting out restrictions on the movements and contacts of an individual. It could even specify how much cash a suspect was allowed to carry.
The orders could also be imposed on a business that was suspected of helping criminals, restricting its financial dealings and other operations. As with an Asbo, any breach of the conditions would be a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison.
As they would be civil orders, the High Court would need to consider only whether an individual met the criteria for a SCPO on the balance of probabilities. Criminal cases require a higher standard of proof: beyond reasonable doubt.
I’m sure this will come as a surprise to the barrister who is currently our Prime Minister. There’s a reason that the standards of proof in civil and criminal cases are different. Civil cases are, for the most part, two citizens arguing with each other. The law is there, in all its Solomonic majesty, to arbitrate between the different claims.
Criminal cases are where the State, with all its might, resources, police, money, prisons and guns, deliberately attempts to take away the freedoms and liberties of an individual for transgression of the law.
That’s why we have different standards, see? Reasonable doubt in one, balance of probabilities in the other. We don’t take away those freedoms on the basis of the balance of probabilities: it took us a few hundred years to work it out but we got there in the end. Banging someone up because we think, but cannot prove, that they are a naughty boy just isn’t how to spread sweetness and light across a society. Indeed, it’s one of the attributes of an oppressive State that such could even be contemplated, let alone re-introduced into the system.
It might also be worth mentioning the old mantra around these parts. All those silly little accretions to the law that we have, archaic hangovers like Habeus Corpus (which this lot have tried to destroy), double jeopardy (which they have) the right to jury trial (ditto) the assumption of innocence (ibid), the right to a trial (ibid) silence (an earlier administration) and so on, they aren’t there to protect criminals from the righteous justice of the State. They are there to protect us, the citizenry, from the unjust application of the monopoly of justice, the monopoly of legal violence, possessed by the State.
The saddest thing? That this really will come as a surprise to that barrister who is now our Prime Minister. Such a fucking awful lawyer that there was nowhere for him to turn but politics.
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The proposed remedy is admittedly draconian but Blair's mounting concerns about his personal credibility are certainly understandable given how became Labour leader in 1994 with his catch phrase: Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.
How many folks in Britain realise this?
"Cases of murder and manslaughter have risen by almost a quarter since Labour came to power, Home Office figures have revealed."
Telegraph, 9 July 2006
Posted by: Bob B | Jul 18, 2006 12:47:01 PM
Habeas (not habeus) corpus.
Posted by: Little Black Sambo | Jul 18, 2006 2:01:53 PM
An asbo for the PM for selling honours: would that be suitable, do you think?
Posted by: dearieme | Jul 18, 2006 4:31:52 PM
Well its on upmanship on the US RICO laws which entrapped many folks including Howard Marks, who kind of reminds me of Tim somehow - long hair, tan, individualistic outlook, living in sunny climes in Southern Europe... come on Tim - is it really rare metals you push around the Globe or is it something else?!
Posted by: angry_economist | Jul 18, 2006 9:25:53 PM
RICO is horrible, but it still is prosecuted under criminal standards of evidence. This super-ASBO sounds more like a Bill of Attainder than anything, and those are illegal under the US Constitution and were abolished under UK law in 1870.
Posted by: David Gillies | Jul 18, 2006 9:42:54 PM
Tony, it seems, is keen on "innocent until proven guilty" when applied to members of his cabinet, or tennis partners, but not the rest of us.
Posted by: Mr Eugenides | Jul 18, 2006 9:43:50 PM
I think the precedent is the "football banning order", which is really quite astonishingly draconian. I apparently have a slight facial resemblance to someone who is the subject of a football banning order, according to a policeman at Luton airport.
Posted by: dsquared | Jul 18, 2006 10:47:52 PM