The PSNI are seeking to be able to seize documents and files without “having an explicit reason to suspect that a crime may have been committed.” BBC NI says “It is understood similar laws are not planned for the rest of the UK.” This move comes as “normalisation” is supposed to be the keyword. While it is likely this is being introduced in order to give the Assets Recovery Agency and the PSNI the ability to clamp harder on the smugglers, counterfeiters, property scammers and money launderers, it is still an amazingly wide open hole of a violation of civil liberties. Security Minister Paul Goggins says, “”A police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that having examined those documents he may have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place.” Oh, well, that’s alright then. “The Minister assured the cross-party committee that officers would not be searching homes “willy-nilly”.” I feel better already. Don’t you?
Trawling and fishing are two words come to mind. Among others.
“Community support officers” are also to be introduced.
Mr Goggins is introducing the clause into the Policing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Northern Ireland Order 2007, which is to be introduced in Parliament this year.
It envisages a number of changes, including 400 extra community police support officers and more powers for the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.
Legislation dating back to the 1970s allowing terrorism suspects to be tried without a jury is to be repealed this July.
The North’s government has also announced a range of demilitarisation measures, including dismantling British Army watchtowers and abolishing the domestic battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment.
He said that an anticipated 400 community-support officers would be appointed over the next four years to work in local areas.
They will be subject to the 50-50 recruitment procedures of Catholics and Protestants, which is designed to boost the number of Catholics in the force.
He added that they would be subject to strict vetting before being accepted.
He said they were not a substitute for fully qualified police officers, and added that they would have some but not all their powers.
Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan is to have the power to recommend prosecution of police officers after they have been acquitted by a court if fresh evidence emerges or techniques like DNA profiling allow a case.
The minister also outlined changes to the recruitment process, which he said could save half a million pounds. It costs £12,000 to recruit one officer, and the PSNI is hoping to boost the proportion of Catholics in the force from 20 per cent to 30 per cent by 2010.