Trust us, we won’t abuse our powers, promise

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Legislation dating back to the 1970s allowing terrorism suspects to be tried without a jury is to be repealed this July.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.

  • fair_deal

    These proposed powers are a disgrace.

  • ingram

    FD,

    Does seem to be an attempt to lower the bar, maybe the PSNI are embarrassed about their tradecraft.

    Their success rate in detection and prosecution of serious crimes is nothing short of a national disgrace. The reason stems from the troubles.

    Instead of lowering the bar they should be raising it not giving a licence to lazy Cops to go on a fishing trip.

    I wonder what Sinn Fein and the DUP will make of this.

    One for one against?

    Martin

  • Pete Baker

    Well at least someone’s noticed..

    Although it’s interesting that the wider media didn’t report it until now.

    It has, after all, been in the public domain for over a month

    And notice what it also says about the number of detective constables.

  • Pete Baker

    btw

    “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.”

    Funny that. A reasonable suspicion that a future reasonable suspicion may be held?

    It is the current situation that a reasonable suspicion must exist for a seizure of documents.

    But the new powers are designed to allow the seizure of documents in circumstances where no such reasonable suspicion is required.

  • smcgiff

    “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

  • fair_deal

    Martin

    “One for one against? ”

    I don’t know, Unionism tends to be pretty knee-jerk on law and order, if the police want it they back it. The only recent example I can think of where this mode wasn’t followed was voting against ID cards (with IIRC the exception of Slyvia Hermon).

    They should try and find their inner ‘Ulster-Scot’ to restore their powers of scepticism/opposition to centralised and authoritarian powers 😉

  • Introduction of double jeopardy (but maybe it’s OK if so far it’s only for the police? (couldn’t find it in the order though)), arbitrary confiscation of property (if an officer thinks he might get suspicious after he examines said property), fingerprinting of unarrested “suspects” on the spot, detention without trial no longer to require the prisoner to appear in court… it goes on!

    The Stated Reason (TM) used to be “think of the children”, but now it seems to be “there might be terrorists”. Maybe republican claims of a police state are ironically coming true after they join in government…

    Proper links: the draft order, and explanatory notes.

  • ingram

    Fair Deal.

    “One for one against? “

    FD.I don’t know, Unionism tends to be pretty knee-jerk on law and order, if the police want it they back it. The only recent example I can think of where this mode wasn’t followed was voting against ID cards (with IIRC the exception of Slyvia Hermon).

    To be honest I was being a touch flippant.To avoid doubt:

    The one for: DUP

    The one against: Sinn FEIN

    The DUP are exremely close to the police, especially the Branch and some very senior officers.The DUP and the Police is an incestuous relationship

    In fairness to Sinn Fein and the SDLP they do have an history in challenging unfair legislation involving the police.

    Regards

    Martin

  • wishing

    ingram
    you’re wrong – both will be in favour of it – ref sinn fein, their leaders will take the same attitude to this as they did to censorship, section 31-style, which was that the only thing wrong with censorship was when it was applied to sinn fein, otherwise its okay – likewise sf will relish this power being used to silence dissidents and any opposition – we’re at the dawn of our own little broy harrier era! welcome to peace, sf-dup style!

  • Crataegus

    Paul

    Introduction of double jeopardy (but maybe it’s OK if so far it’s only for the police? (couldn’t find it in the order though)), arbitrary confiscation of property (if an officer thinks he might get suspicious after he examines said property), fingerprinting of unarrested “suspects” on the spot, detention without trial no longer to require the prisoner to appear in court… it goes on!

    You are right it goes on and on, identity cards, genetic fingerprinting etc Not to mention routine phone monitoring, surveillance cameras etc. etc.

    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.”

    This is insane. Under NO circumstance should anyone support this. We have seen in the recent past the misuse of power and the serious consequences. Consider how this could have dire consequence on an innocent person.

    Imagine you innocently, and quite normally, sold some land to a person of dubious character and that the price was below market value, or that you were a building contractor and your price was keen. The police may infer that you are receiving cash on the side. They may raid your office and home, seize your computers start to investigate your bank accounts etc. Can you imagine what the neighbours will think, can you imagine what the bank will think and what it will do to your credit rating, can you imagine how much disruption that this will cause? Take another example what if you unknowingly rent a house to a prostitute or drug dealer?

    The disruption and inferred slanderous accusation could easily put someone out of business and leave lasting damage.

    Secondly what happens if something unrelated to the initial enquiry is dragged up as a result of the searching, say an affair with the secretary or that you are gay? This is an utter mine field and open to all sorts of abuse. DONT SUPPORT IT!!!!

  • aquifer

    Limited liability confers significant advantages to businesses under the law, which are open to abuse by criminals. e.g. They can pour hot money into three businesses, keep the most profitable one, and siphon money back out of the failing two, creating an apparently legitimate success with the law unlikely to get a look in. The petrol business has such a large percentage of illegal trade that all filling stations should be examined, if only to give the law abiding and tax paying ones a sporting chance.

    Businesses should not have better civil liberties than people. I cannot speak as I wish because of criminally funded sectarian gangs who would murder those who obstruct them, yet I must pay my taxes on the nail.

    Around here tax evasion and fraud are an integral part of paramilitary conspiracies with murder as part of their repertoire, so I would accept scrutiny as a price worth paying to be rid of them all. No skimmed percentage is worth blood on the streets.

    Paramilitaries need to steal money because the people are too smart to vote for death pox politics, but we don’t need to smile as they drain our wallets.

  • anja

    Some sympathy with the last comment….. however…..

    Top down routing of criminals close to the people…… even if the people are involuntarioly ‘close’… just another situatuion in which to try and avoid being perceived as a grass if you egt called in for questioning….

    Reminds me of the intrduction of the child support agency: it could have worked if they had left the element of compulsion out of it…. women should have been able to go there and ASK the sgency to intervence ….. benefits not affected and so on until a woman approaches the agency herself…..

    Sure it would have led to some benefit fiddling going unnoticed….. so what?

    The present proposals will lead to an increased enmity between the state that will be presenting itself as the unifier of the people while continuing to divide and weaken them and leave them as in the grips of criminals as ever.

    The police need to find ways of truly protecting citizens who come to them voluntarily……
    NOT of further controlling private activity and having access to anyone who troubles the status quo with non conforming ideas…..

    There is not acghance in hell this would not be abused…….

    xx,a.