Archive for October, 2013

It would seem that there is a national need for a national police force. Whatever that need is, I have never really understood.

I personally don’t understand how we can have a new National Crime Agency without a Royal Commission on Policing or similar. Apparently, it’s more than rebranding SOCA, apparently it’s a new way we do national policing.

I’m sorry, it feels half arsed to me. In short, SOCA has been rebranded, CEOP (a good agency) has been subsumed and the troubled bits of the UKBA has been absorbed into the National Crime Agency.

And it’s clear that the Coalition have a brand in mind. They want the ‘NCA’ to be the British FBI. That’s clearly the brief which has been given to the media.

I pause at this stage and note, there’s nothing terribly ‘federal’ about the NCA. It’s got no powers to institute proceedings Scotland and only minor powers in Northern Ireland.

And really, call me a cynic, I imagine that bundling a number of agencies into one isn’t about a national revolution in the way that we are policed, but rather instead a cost cutting exercise packaged in a bit of media excitement.

If…

We are to have a national police force, then in reality there are a number of areas that NCA are missing.

NCA has effectively four sections:

– Border policing

– Economic crime

– CEOP (and the cyber crime unit)

– Organised crime

A remit much narrower than the FBI.

The fear

The hype of our own FBI is that nobody is out of its reach.

And in terms of the FBI, that’s very true. Small town corrupt police departments ought to fear the G men and the financier with a proclivity to misselling financial products to little old ladies ought to have the same.

The FBI has eight top investigative priorities:

At number 5

Protect civil rights. If you’re a state official in the United States who misuses their power, who curtails the rights of the good folk of whatever county, then (nowadays at least – forget COINTELPRO for a mo) they ought to expect a knock on the door from a university educated law enforcement official.

If a Washington Police Dept had illegally followed, slurred and surveilled a murder victim’s family, they don’t have an ombudsman knock on their door, they have the FBI.

At number 7

Combat major white collar crime. We’ve seen the images of the likes of Bernie Madoff taken down by the FBI (and technically also I’m told the US Postal Service!).

In the UK we see nothing like it. The major white collar crime, when committed by an individual is investigated by a variety of folk, the City of London Police, the Met, the SFO and so on and so on.

Behind closed doors we don’t see the non-prosecution arrangements reached with companies or their agreements to pay fines.

If we were serious about a national police force to have a serious economic crime aspect, then those agencies ought to have been subsumed too. But let’s face it, there’s no drive in this government to really tackle crime in the City.

All publicity no panther

Was it a panther, or was it a bear that was the logo of SOCA? I have forgetten already.

If this new agency is to have any claws then charge it with protecting civil liberties and fighting big corruption. Otherwise it’s just a load of money on new logos.

FTD.

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I’m sure St Basil’s Cathedral is beautiful and that borsch grows on you, but, I don’t want to live in Russia. Nor do I want to live in Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iran or any other country that doesn’t recognise basic human rights.

I’m not asking for much: I want to live in a country where I can express myself freely without the risk of arrest, where I can practice my religion (or lack thereof), where I can live freely without unlawful interference of my property or person by the State, where I won’t be locked up without due process.

Theresa May said yesterday that the next Conservative Manifesto would promise to repeal the Human Rights Act.

As an aside, the Human Rights Act doesn’t actually give anybody any new rights. What it simply does is incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights directly into English law. I.e, you can enforce one of your ECHR rights in an English Court of any level, rather than having to go to every English Court and then go to Strasbourg. If you didn’t know, you have had ECHR rights since the 1950s, they were thought to be essential by great men and women: Churchill. Being a signatory to the Convention is a necessary condition before a nation is able to ascend to EU membership.

The ECHR is simple enough, google it, simple things like the right to life, the right to a fair trial. Things that you want, that you expect.

Let’s be honest, Theresa May isn’t saying that she doesn’t want you to have those rights. She’s keen to express herself and live freely without the risk of arbitrary arrest.

No, the truth is, that a poisonous section of our society do not like the universal aspect of human rights.

And that varies in degree:

Why should prisoners have rights? They committed crimes, they’ve been taken out of society.

Why should asylum seekers have rights? They aren’t in their home country, they’re guests in somebody elses.

Why should the unemployed have rights? They aren’t contributing economically to society, why should they be protected by it.

Uncomfortable yet? My skin is crawling.

What about disabled people with genetic conditions. Should they have the unfettered right to reproduce?

Or, what about the mentally ill? Or children?

Now I’m feeling a little sick.

The haves and have nots

Repeal the Human Rights Act, in reality we’re all have nots. Not being able to directly enforce one’s Convention rights in domestic Courts is not a positive thing. Nor, in reality to any of us benefit from the legal situation of suddenly extracting those rights from the system, especially when 10 years of common law decisions are based on the Convention having direct effect. Legal uncertainty is not a good thing, especially when it concerns the rights of the individual.

The citizens and the slaves

Those with a historic inclination would be probably say that the Magna Carta is the first real human rights document, and hoorah, it’s British. But, there is a simpler, much earlier document:

When Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon he freed all of the city’s slaves. He declared that all races were equal and that one was free to choose one’s own religion. That was in 539 BC.

My view is simple. There is a minimum standard that everyone deserves. If you decide that certain people don’t deserve that minimum standard then they are little more than slaves.

If you argue that not everyone deserves human rights, then be sure never to visit a country where human rights aren’t universal, as you may find yourself in that minority without protection.

FTD