I heard this morning, on Radio 4, two broadcasts about the justice system that I regard as presenting conflicting views, although none of the journalists concerned seemed to spot the conflict.
Firstly, we were told that a senior police officer has suggested, and I paraphrase creatively, that we get back to basics and concentrate on prosecuting those criminals that commit acts of violence and theft – i.e. the crimes that actually make the man or woman in the street suffer directly.
Secondly, Ben Wallace, Minister of State for Security at the Home Office (https://www.gov.uk/government/people/ben-wallace) announced that they were now going to actively pursue “Organised Criminal Gangs” (that’s prosecution speak for more than one person!) by pursuing apparently ordinary business people who facilitate laundering of money for them, such as private schools, insurance agents and estate agents etcetera. There was no mention of bankers, of course, without whom nothing would be possible. All this despite the official OECD definition of money laundering which the UK authorities wish to be able to ignore when it suits them, as happened in my case.
The conflict is therefore between one view which says that the limited resources we have in the police force should be concentrated on crimes that affect the general public directly and the view of government – stimulated, no doubt by their interest in collecting taxes or reducing them for electoral reasons – that, because we are not prepared to put in place the resources to tackle genuinely organised international crime, we should pursue those “apparently law abiding citizens” that may facilitate money laundering. What is frightening in this approach is that, to convict, we are then going to rely on the notion of knowledge instead of what normal people would call evidence. In other words, the estate agent that does all his checks according to the accepted definition of money laundering is still at risk if the CPS thinks that a jury would convict them on the basis of what they must have or should have known. This is not a slippery slope argument because it is already happening and happened to me. So I am unsure as to whether what Ben Wallace was saying was new!