Local councils to get seizure powers

By politics.co.uk staff

Local councils will be able to seize the assets of minor offenders under Home Office plans set to be introduced next week.

Home secretary Alan Johnson will push through the measure next week using a statutory instrument, meaning it won’t be debated by MPs.

Previously only police could seize assets ahead of a court ruling on their origin, but next week’s move means accredited financial investigators, which includes customs officials and local authority workers, will also be given the powers.

The police and opposition parties both reacted angrily to the idea.

“The Proceeds of Crime Act is a very powerful tool in the hands of the police and police-related agencies and it shouldn’t be treated lightly,” Paul McKeever, of the Police Federation, told The Times.

“It is typical of this government to use serious crime or terrorism to justify intrusive powers before rolling them out to all sorts of bodies for the investigation of minor offences,” said Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne.

“We have already seen this with Ripa powers, with terror powers and now, it seems, with seizing people’s assets.”

But the Home Office insists investigators were subject to proper codes of practise and would be fully trained to use the powers appropriately.