Targeting Criminals' Profits is Fine; Civil Confiscation is Not

23 January 2001

Deborah Clark, Liberty's Director of Public Affairs, says:

Confiscating people's ill-gotten gains after they are convicted of a crime is one thing; civil confiscation, as proposed today by Mr Straw, is quite another. It removes the basic protection that you will only have your belongings and finances investigated and seized if you are proved to have done wrong to the criminal standard. Mr Straw's Bill proposes that people who are deemed by a judge (with no jury) to be 'probably' criminals can have their assets seized.

The government talks of the people it 'knows' are involved in crime - but our system of justice is based not on the opinions of officials, but on the evidence presented in a court of law. We only know someone is guilty of a crime when they have been convicted.

The difficulty of securing a criminal conviction is intended to reduce the possibility of mistakes. The new measures may well allow the police to target some genuine criminals; but they will also reduce the protection against police mistakes, and make it more likely that innocent people will be unjustly lose their home and property".