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Soca Training

by | 10th, February 2004

‘THE public’s fear of organised crime is often out of proportion with the threat it poses.

J Edgar Hoover had problems remembering his alphabet

But ever one to play on our fears, Tony Blair yesterday outlined his plan to capture and disarm so-called ‘Mr Bigs’ who run their shadowy gangs.

The Times leads with this story, hearing Tony say: ‘I think people would accept that within certain categories of case, provided it’s big enough, you don’t take the normal burden’.

What he means in non-legalese is that the burden of proof, the tenet of the legal system that calls for guilt to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, should be somewhat relaxed.

This is a rather unsettling notion, and one that Barry Hugill, spokesman for Liberty, labels ‘justice lite’.

He asks: ‘How long before it [the change in the burden of proof] becomes a general rule?’

Not very long at all, really. And if Mr Hugill casts his gaze towards the Middle East he might like to consider how a pilot scheme has treated that Mr Big of world repute, Saddam Hussein.

‘No evidence – no worries’, as they say on the hotline between the White House and Number 10.

Indeed, the Anglo-American legal casebook has been swapping some other notes, and Tony’s comments on organised crime came amid the launch of what the Independent calls Britain’s new ‘FBI-style crime unit to bring gangland bosses to justice’.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) will have sweeping powers to tackle gangland bosses, to wage an offensive against smugglers of guns, people, booze, tobacco and perhaps even drugs.

Yes, drugs, of the type once taken by the current Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ken MacDonald QC, who (the Independent reports) was fined £75 in 1971 for sending 0.1g of cannabis through the post.

But let us not be too hasty to judge and condemn, since Mr MacDonald is something of an expert in legal maters and when he says, ‘People have to be given a chance to redeem themselves’, we should listen.

A second chance is a fine thing, although it is hard to make much of it when the dossiers have been written, the weapons of war are primed and the heavily-armed Allies are knocking on your door…’

Posted: 10th, February 2004 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink