1 AUGUST 1987, Page 5


THE revived Criminal Justice Bill contains fierce clauses which will allow the author- ities to freeze all assets of those suspected of City fraud. They are being introduced, it is said, to counter accusations that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. In fact, they will ensure the truth of this old saw, but in the reverse of its usual sense — the rich will be treated worse than the poor. The High Court will be allowed to freeze assets over £10,000. Police and Customs will be allowed to seize assets which they think are being smuggled abroad. In short, men who have not been proved guilty of anything can be virtually ruined. If their assets are frozen over a long period, they will sustain heavy losses for which no compensation will be offered. A similar law was recently introduced to grab the money of those suspected of being drug dealers, Both are examples of the growing trend of using the criminal law to satisfy passing storms of public opinion. At present, drug dealers and City fraudsters are the criminals that people have decided to hate. Both crimes are certainly serious, but it is odious to sacrifice the principle of the legal presumption of innocence for a few favourable headlines.