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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Gangsters face 'control orders'
Police officer
Control orders could be 'another weapon' against gangsters
Anti-terror style "control orders" could be used to disrupt the activities of the gangsters at the top of organised crime, the government says.

The new "prevention order" would make it easier for the Serious Organised Crime Agency to restrict suspected drug traffickers, smugglers and fraudsters.

Any breach of such an order would result in criminal proceedings.

But Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker denies the proposed measure is a replacement for prosecution.

'Another weapon'

The government brought in control orders to target terror suspects who could not be prosecuted in courts.

This could be because the evidence against them had been collected by bugging the suspect - and was therefore inadmissible - or because using it could reveal intelligence sources.

Organised crime is an insidious scourge on our society and we want to ensure that the UK is tackling it at every level
John Reid

Control orders allow terror suspects to be tagged, confined to their homes and banned from communicating with others.

Mr Coaker said the new Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO) was one of a raft of measures being put forward by the Home Office to help the Serious Organised Crime Agency crackdown on crime bosses who consider themselves "untouchable".

Anyone who receives a SCPO would be banned from certain activities or face a possible maximum of five years in jail.

Suspected criminals could face travel restrictions or have their use of certain phone numbers limited.

Mr Coaker said the measure would be "another weapon" against serious gangsters suspected of being involved in organised crime where there is not enough evidence to prosecute.

Organised crime costs the UK more than 20bn each year and those involved could see limits put on certain credit cards or bank accounts and the amount of money they carry.

'Culture change' needed

The proposal is part of a package, entitled New Powers for Organised and Financial Crime, being put out for consultation until 17 October.

The plans also include introducing new laws to target people on the periphery of criminal activity and moves to increase the amount of data sharing between public and private sector agencies.

Mr Coaker admitted that there would have to be a "big cultural change" in order for a new framework for data sharing to be effective.

Home Secretary John Reid said: "Organised crime is an insidious scourge on our society and we want to ensure that the UK is tackling it at every level.

"The proposals we are putting forward are designed to prevent these criminals from operation on UK soil, to disrupt their activities, target them more effectively and make it harder for them to evade detection.

"We also know that financial criminals are experts at exploiting and using information held by agencies which is why we are focusing on improved date sharing."

Civil order

SCPO prosecutions would be brought 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.

The Home Office suggested more than 1,000 people could be targeted by the proposed order.

But the courts will have to ensure any restrictions imposed are compatible with human rights obligations.

The Home Office says the prevention order could be useful if there is evidence of crimes committed overseas which cannot be prosecuted in the UK.

Or if the person has been released after conviction abroad, and might be subject to strict licence conditions in the UK.

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