Monday, 20 February 2012
Long Arm Of The Law
One of Scotland's top cops - Stephen House - has come up with a good idea for catching more criminals.
The chief constable of Strathclyde Police has suggested that the police should keep a share of monies recovered from Proceeds of Crime Legislation - which allows the Scottish courts to seize and recover assets which have been acquired through illegal means.
In practice this means that organsied criminals can have their ill-gotten gains taken away - if they can't demonstrate that their fancy cars, houses and lifestyles - have not been earned legitimately.
In essence the law in this area has been strengthened and changed - to make it possible to go after the bad guys in the civil courts - because the standard of proof required in the criminal courts makes a conviction unlikely or impossible.
Maybe this model can provide inspiration in other areas of where the criminal law is letting society down - but in any event the Proceeds of Crime legislation is proving to be a great success - recovering £44 million since 2007.
At the moment this money goes towards 'good causes' - which are not necessarily directly related to crime - but Stephen House's idea is that in future the police should get to keep a share of the money the courts recover.
The chief constable said at the weekend:
"We have all these criminals out there with all this money that they have stolen from law-abiding people.
"It seems daft to me that we have not got all the weapons we need to go after them. Everybody is worried about paying their taxes. But why keep taxing law-abiding people when we could be taxing criminals?"
Stephen House believes this would make a huge difference inthe fight against organised crime - creating a virtuous circle that would allow the police to focus more resources which would ultimately be paid for by the criminals themselves.
Since making his statement some commentators have suggested that this may end up 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' - if that's not an inappropriate comparison in the circumstances.
But I disagree - because this is an example of the police taking the fight to the criminals - and showing that crime really doesn't pay.
With a bit of common sense there's no reason why money spent on good causes can't continue - at the same time as coming up with a funding formula in support of an area of policing - that seems to be producing impressive results.
That's what politics and policing should be all about.