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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 18:18 GMT
'Super-asbos' to target gangsters
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Up to 30 major criminals a year could be given new civil orders restricting their involvement in organised crime, the Home Office has said.

The orders, dubbed "super-asbos", would target those suspected of drug dealing, money-laundering and human trafficking.

They form part of the government's proposed Serious Crime Bill which aims to hit the UK's "Mr Bigs" before trial.

Civil rights group Liberty has dismissed the proposed orders as "unfair and ineffective".

The Serious Crime Bill is also expected to strengthen powers to seize assets such as cash, properties and cars from criminals.

Breaching the new orders could lead to a five-year prison term.

Home Secretary John Reid called for cross-party support for the new laws.

"We are bringing in reforms to get the Mr Bigs of the organised crime world," he said.

"We hope this will have a huge impact, and we hope opposition parties will give the support necessary rather than what they have done every time we have tried to bring in strong powers to tackle crime and terrorism, which is vote against them and claim they aren't strong enough."

This is sort of an Al Capone bill - you know, if we can't get you on one, we'll get you on another.
Former deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police John Stalker

But critics warned the measures would see individuals targeted without their guilt being proven.

Jago Russell, policy officer for civil rights group Liberty, said: "We used to believe in hard evidence and fair trials in this country - now we dispense rapid-fire justice as quickly as the government can develop a catchy four-letter acronym for it.

"These new orders targeted at the 'Mr Bigs' of the criminal world will likely be as unfair and ineffective as Asbos and control orders before them."

'Not the answer'

And former deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police John Stalker told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that the government was going down a dangerous route.

He added: "My view is that criminals should be dealt with under the criminal law and that Asbos, super-asbos as these are being called, are not the answer to heavyweight criminals. They maybe OK for hoodies on the street but they are not for heavyweight criminals.

"This is sort of an Al Capone bill - you know, if we can't get you on one, we'll get you on another."

But Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said the measures would be a major weapon in combating "untouchable" criminals.

Financial, property or business dealings
Working arrangements
People who can be associated or communicated with
Access to premises
Travel in the UK or abroad

He said: "There are people who try to stay remote from crime, who try to encourage crime but never get their hands dirty.

"We want to ensure that, while our methods are proportionate, we can get to them.

"People who believe they are beyond the law and untouchable will know that the government is on the side of the ordinary law-abiding majority."

The serious crime prevention orders would be applied for by the Crown Prosecution Service, Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office or the Serious Fraud Office.

An order could be imposed by the courts if they believed, on the balance of probability, that the suspect had acted in a way which helped or was likely to help a serious crime.

Orders would also be used if courts felt it was necessary and proportionate to prevent such criminal harm in the future.

It would be a High Court civil order that could be challenged in the Court of Appeal.

A civil rights advocate questions the new laws

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