Opinion: Time to hire Peter Gunn

POSTED: 10/30/12 12:19 PM

Our regular letter-writer Peter Gunn takes aim at Justice Minister Duncan elsewhere on this page. That’s his constitutional right of course and we would be the last ones to deny him that right. When we read his headline we thought – time to hire Peter Gunn – because, boy, the man can write. Give us a call Peter, any time.
But then we hit upon his remarks about the BOB-legislation and we got second thoughts. That Duncan forces spy laws soviet-style through parliament is of course an opinion one can have, but stating that the BOB-laws are designed to “criminalize business people and other hard-working residents,” and that they “blatantly infringe on personal freedoms and privacy rights” is a version of the truth we disagree with.
BOB is the Dutch acronym for special investigation methods. That law came into being in the Netherlands for one good reason: police officers were using investigation methods that were not regulated anywhere, had no legal basis, and resulted in a very thin line between the good guys and the bad guys. Undercover police officers got involved in the drugs trade, and shipments were let into the country to give law enforcement an opportunity to get the big fish off the streets (or out of the water, if you prefer). Police officers were therefore doing things that at least made them look like genuine drug dealers – and of course some crossed the line there as well.
The BOB-legislation is designed to regulate investigation methods that in some cases indeed mean an infringement on someone’s privacy rights.
Peter Gunn has not a shred of evidence to substantiate his claim that this law is designed to criminalize business people. That is because this simply is not true. Yes, one could become the target of far reaching investigation methods but before any detective is going to be allowed to use these methods something must happen. There must be a serious suspicion (one jeweler ratting on another jeweler is not going to do the trick) the crime must be serious (think Vesuvius) and there must be no other way to obtain evidence.
Without the BOB-law investigators would find ways around the criteria they have to meet before using methods like planting listening devices or conducting structural observations of people or premises.
It is hard to understand that people who are the loudest critics of law enforcement’s performance in battling serious crime, suddenly balk at the thought of giving police officers and prosecutors the tools they need to battle those crimes.
Gunn’s cry for stiffer penalties is also off the mark. Within the past year prosecutor’s have demanded life sentences against four suspects. The first two were overturned by the appeals court and converted to 30 years, but the prosecutor’s office has gone in cassation at the Supreme Court. The second two are still under consideration by the judge in the Vesuvius case.
There will always be concerns about crime, and there will always be cries for stiffer penalties. Only in a perfect world there is no crime. But it does not help the debate to twist the facts for the sole purpose of creating an impression that satisfies the needs of its creator.

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