Organised crime prevention order

Organised crime prevention orders are proposed new powers which the UK Home office would like to introduce in order to help combat serious and organised crime.

The new orders will give the UK courts power to restrict an individual's financial dealings such as setting a limit on the amount of cash an individual can carry and allowing them only to use "notified financial instruments", when that individual has not committed any offence. The proposed new organised crime prevention orders will, if enacted, introduce new powers which will also enable the state to compulsorily to purchase businesses or property belonging individuals subject to the orders as well as prevent them from working in certain industries. An application could be made for an order to prevent an individual from using the internet, or working in the financial sector.

The proposed new powers appear not to limit the scope of orders which could be made under them, this is to be left up to the courts. Examples given by the Home Office indicate that they expect the new powers to be used to prevent individuals from travelling and meeting others. Such powers are already seen in the highly controversial terrorist control orders - which have been described by a High Court Judge as "conspicuously unfair", another judge has ruled that terrorist control orders restricting individuals freedoms in the same way as the proposed new orders breach a subjects human rights. The organised crime prevention orders are being billed by the Home office as somewhere in between an ASBO and the terrorism control orders, none of the orders require a criminal offence to have been committed before they are used.

The Home Office consultation document explains the circumstances in which an organised crime prevention order could be sought:

These sort of orders might be used in cases where there was a strong weight of evidence but either not enough for a prosecution, [or where] prosecution was planned but additional measures were urgently needed to prevent harms in the interim, prosecution had been ruled not appropriate on public interest grounds, or the evidence of criminal activity could not be prosecuted (eg because it took place overseas). These sorts of orders could be imposed to prevent criminal activity in the first place, but they might also constitute an alternative disposal for those individuals at the fringe of major cases who were not targeted for prosecution, but from whom specific assurances of future good behaviour are needed, or for individuals preparing to agree a deal under the Queen’s Evidence provisions in SOCPA.[The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005]

The courts would be able to impose an organised crime prevention order if they believe on the balance of probability an individual (or a group) had acted in a way which facilitated or was likely to facilitate the commissioning of serious crime. This wording means that even if no crime had taken place an individual could face the effects of the draconian proposed powers.

There is a lot of potential for abuse inherent in these new regulations. As an example an individual providing a discussion forum, open mail relay, free webmail, chat service, web proxy or other online service which while having legitimate uses would likely be used for the commission of serious crime online could find themselves unable to meet others, carry cash or travel. There is also potential for these new rules to push technology companies out of the UK, would companies feel comfortable launching services such as hotmail, or myspace feel comfortable launching their services in an environment where those responsible could face draconian measures if their services were judged "likely to facilitate the commissioning of serious crime", a popular free web based email service could quite easily be judged to fit that criteria.


The Home Office Consultation Document on New Powers Against Organised and Financial Crime, published on 17/07/06

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