You can see why people are getting impatient with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). That’s the body that fights, on your behalf and mine, organized crime and terrorists. If SOCA sees someone who looks as if he might be an organized criminal or a terrorist, they can do a wonderful thing. They can go straight to the High Court and ask if they can freeze that person’s assets, please. Once the High Court says ‘Yes, of course you can, fire ahead’, then everything that person owns – his house, his bank account, his car or cars – all gone. Frozen. Out of reach. Sisyphus stuff.
Sounds good? You betcha. OK, there are tedious people who criticize it. People like Mr Justice Collins, who ruled last April at the High Court that this way of going on was absurd, unfair and a breach of fundamental human rights. But he got over-ruled so it doesn’t matter what he said. Thanks to the Assets Recovery Agency (SOCA’s predecessor) the assets of Tom (Slab) Murphy were frozen a while back back , and in recent days SOCA has frozen the assets of Sean Gerard Hughes.
All well and good, but irritating for those of us who believe that the law should act more swiftly and in, what’ll I say, in a more all-encompassing way. As things stand, Mr Murphy and Mr Hughes have been temporarily stripped of all they possess without a trial – but what about all the others? These men are from South Armagh, and as we all know that’s Bandit Country, which means it’s full of people acting in either a criminal or a terrorist capacity, or both at once. And those that aren’t are busy aiding and abetting those who are.
What must happen, and happen quickly, is that SOCA must stop scooping people in ones and scoop the lot. Take over a big football stadium – say the Crossmaglen Rangers place – and confine the lot of them there. And, naturally, freeze their assets.
Yes, it is great that SOCA can by-pass the tedium of the courts – all that arguing and my learned friend nonsense – and just grab people’s property and possessions; but it’s costing £400 million a year and we’ll get nowhere if we don’t think big. Let’s see SOCA freeze every asset in South Armagh, scoop the entire population of the place, and watch the blessings of law and order return to our Province. Willie Frazer standing in a draughty South Armagh farmyard yelling for Tom Murphy to come out is no substitute.