Presumed innocence

The Assets Recovery Agency. An independent Government department, under David Blunkett’s guidance.

It’s purpose is to try and make sure that criminals don’t profit from crime. It’s method is to try and seize assets thought to be illegally obtained through civil court actions. It’s been received well, with lots of people saying that it’s about time that something was done.

I’m not so sure.

Why, you pointedly don’t ask? Well, it’s simple really. I have a couple of reasons.

The foundation of the criminal justice system is that someone is presumed innocent unless proven guilty by a court of law. In a civil action, the borden of proof is significantly lower. Basicially, the whole point of the ARA is that they target people who the state can’t prove are criminals. I get the feeling that, once a seizure application is lodged in Court, then that’s it, the ARA get your stuff. Making it seem like theres a presumption of guilt: the onus is on the defendant to prove that they obtained their assets legally, rather than the state having to prove that they obtained them illegally. Hence, presumed innocence is out the window. Which is point one.

Point two is another pet peeve of mine. What right does the state have to say “Oh, you can’t prove that this is yours, so it’s now ours”. Is the money going to be given to the victims of the not proven in a criminal court crime? No. Is it going to be spent working with victims? I’d guess not. In fact, I’d put my money on it going straight into the Home Office coffers, but since the ARA’s website expressly doesn’t mention where it all goes, that’s just speculation on my part.

The third point is this: look at the kind of assets frozen. Theyr’e not after the assets of the allegded dealer here: they’ve taken his ma’s house. Bought in her name, owned by her. And now taken because the state believe her son to be a Bad Man. No one else bothered by this?

Fourth and final point: the greater potential for wrongdoing on behalf of the state. And it’s the biggie.

Acidman posted a quote some time back:

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all. -H. L. Mencken

Another way of putting it:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Sure, now they’re after drug dealers and smugglers. Who’s next? Paedophiles? Dure, they didn’t directly gain financially from their crime, but they sure as hell don’t deserve to keep anything they earned while they were engaged in criminal activity. Passes the Daily Mail test anyway.

Then who? Tax evaders. Bastards doing the common working man in the street out of their hard earned cash. Passes the Daily Mirror test.

Speeders: their cars have been used in carrying out a crime. So their car is now the state’s car.

And so on. And so forth. There is no logical stop point now that this has started. There is no line in the sand where you can stand and say: “This is far enough for the ARA. It can go no further.” It will, in the manner of all government departments, grow and expand until it comes into conflict with another department.

And the only real brake on it’s growth is under the control of David Bastard Blunkett. Oh goodie. I feel safer already.

One thought on “Presumed innocence

  1. Pingback: I didn’t quite catch that… » Lets assume that the aside is actually the main point

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