Sunday, April 23, 2006


Tony Blair: Fighting Crime in the 21st Century

Tony Blair is now on record as being in favour of expelling unrepetent criminals from Britain.
In an exchange of remarkably candid opinion pieces with Harry Porter of The Observer, Blair advocates (among other measures) the removal from Britain of career criminals as being necessary to deal with the realities of modern criminal activity. This exchange of opinions is truly remarkable in its candidness. Well worth reading.

An excerpt from his first letter follows:

From: Tony Blair To: Henry Porter Subject: Liberty

Dear Henry Porter,

Frankly it's difficult to know where to start, given the mishmash of misunderstanding, gross exaggeration and things that are just plain wrong. A few explanatory facts might help.

You say I have 'pared down our liberty at an astonishing rate', then list a whole lot of fundamental rights, as if these had all been drastically curtailed. We are proposing that the right to trial by jury be changed in one set of circumstances: highly complex serious fraud cases. The reason is simple. The cases last for months, sometimes years - they are incredibly difficult for juries for time and complexity reasons; it is over 30 years since Lord Roskill recommended the change because otherwise such cases often collapse at huge expense and the guilty go free. The estimated number of cases per year is around 20, out of a total of 40,000 jury trials.
It's correct that, again in a small number of cases, we have introduced unusual restrictions to combat terrorists. There are 12 control orders in place. But we did suffer the death by terrorism of over 50 of our citizens last July. In common with virtually every major nation in the world, we are tightening our restrictions but there are, in every case, elaborate mechanisms of scrutiny and oversight.
Go and talk to people living on estates blighted by anti-social behaviour. Until the new laws allowed them to put restrictions on offenders, close down houses used for drug dealing, seize dealers' assets, disperse gangs of youths, fine vandals on the spot, the victims had nothing to protect them except the usual process of the criminal law, which was hopelessly inadequate. Recently I visited East Manchester and Camden, where, I am proud to say, Labour councillors had, with the police and local residents used the new laws to put some respect and decency back into their communities.

When we talk of civil liberties, what about theirs, the law-abiding people; the ones who treat others with courtesy and good manners and expect the same back? Don't theirs count for anything?
You can't deal with the levels of sophistication in today's organised crime by traditional methods. That's why we are giving the new agency new powers to force suspects to disclose information, to open up their accounts; to ensure that their advisers can't conceal evidence; and to track their movements not just in Britain but abroad. But look at what these people do. They traffic in human beings, often, as I heard for myself a few weeks back, young girls sold into prostitution; they deal in drugs, with levels of violence unimaginable in the past.

I am sorry to tell you: I want us to go further in all these areas. The alternative is that they, who do not play by our rules or any rules, get away with it.
Ultimately, for me this whole issue is not about whether we care about civil liberties, but how we care for them in the modern world. If the traditional processes were the answer to these crime and law and order problems ......, then we wouldn't be having this debate. But they're not. They've failed. They are leaving the innocent unprotected and the guilty unpunished. That's why we need them changed.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair


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