Rule of law: Cornered by fear
Since 9/11, the threat of terrorist action against the UK has been repeatedly invoked by the Government to justify legislation, the draconian nature of which might have met with approval from Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety. The Committee adopted measures intended to protect the life of the French nation, which at the time was seen as at immediate risk. At a subliminal level, the linkage of the terrorist threat with financial crime has enabled legislation to be enacted that in other circumstances would be considered illiberal and at odds with constitutional freedoms. A striking example is the reporting obligation imposed on the regulated sector under section 330 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). The foundation for this is the imposition of criminal liability for entertaining (unreported) suspicion. This is a novel area of significant legal risk to the UK financial services sector.
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