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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 13:33 GMT
Taking the fight to crime lords

The Queen's Speech includes a new Organised Crime Bill.

The Mr Bigs of the underworld have taken a number of hits in recent years, most notably with the introduction of the Proceeds of Crime Bill, which sought to seize money and assets obtained through crime.

A raid on a cafe run by a Turkish mafia gang
The government is committed to tackling organised crime and pursuing justice against those who profit from the damage it does to communities
John Reid

Earlier this year the government merged the National Criminal Intelligent Service, the National Crime Squad and several other law enforcement units to form the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

The Organised Crime Bill will be an attempt to keep up the momentum and provide Soca with more powers to target drug barons, human traffickers and others who run major criminal networks.

Measures in the bill will include:

  • The introduction of Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPOs), which are designed to restrict the ability of crime bosses to carry out their illegal businesses. They are similar to control orders used on terrorist suspects.

  • A new offence of encouraging or assisting a criminal act with intent or believing that an offence may be committed. This could be used to convict criminals who may pull the strings behind the scenes without becoming physically involved - for example, drug traffickers who deliberately avoid any contact with the shipments themselves.

  • Boosting the law enforcement agencies' ability to seize assets from criminals.

    The Home Office estimates that organised crime - everything from credit card fraud to cigarette smuggling - costs Britain 20bn a year.

    Serious and Organised Crime Agency logo
    The bill aims to help the Soca agency target organised crime

    Many of the kingpins, who are known to police force chiefs, would be targeted for SCPOs.

    Under the terms of the order they could be forced to obey curfews, avoid contact with named associates and obey restrictions on mobile phones, e-mail and bank accounts.

    Although they would be civil orders - and hence subject to a lower standard of proof - breaching one of the terms would be a criminal offence which would carry a punishment of five years in jail.

    The Bill would cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland although some parts of it would also include Scotland.




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