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Pirate DVDs to... pirates

January 30, 2009 12:00 PM
By Cllr Allan Siao Ming Witherick, LGA Lib Dem Group lead for Safer Communities in Lib Dem News

pirated goodsLib Dem Councils and councillors across the country are fighting for liberal democracy. For the principles on every membership card "safeguard a fair, free and open society", with of course the balances of equality. But what does this mean on the ground?

What does it mean where we are in control, where we are in opposition, where we are responsible for seeking to implement Liberal Democracy. In particular, how can our councillors help fight against international organised crime and protect our communities while keeping to our philosophy.

This means using all the tools available to us to make a difference. In councils one of those tools is Trading Standards. Often it is seen as just a tiny part of a county or unitaries responsibilities, but it provides many essential functions. For our councillors and communities this small section is becoming increasingly important for a different reason though. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act it has become a potential money spinner which takes resources out of the criminal networks and moves it to where it can really make a positive difference to local communities.

A number of prosecutions have been taken where, unable to prove the source of the funds, the council and partners have been able to confiscate resources from criminals. This has included everything from cash, houses and cars through to small planes and yachts! So surely this is a positive aspect.

But how does this get you to the title from Pirate DVDs to pirates?

Very quickly unfortunately. Many will have heard of the Chinese cockle pickers who were killed as the tide came in, trafficked to the UK in to effective enslavement. What you may not have heard was that at least some of the funds to bring them to the UK came from the thousands of counterfeit DVDs which were found during the police investigation. Proceeds from "harmless" copying and sales of DVDs were funding people trafficking.

The Local Government Association group brought together Liberal Democrat councillors recently to look at how we can deal with these and many other issues because it actually tackles another aspect of our principles "enslaved by poverty".

Who suffers from cheap counterfeit goods?

· Is it the legitimate local businesses which can not compete against cheaper fakes?

· Is it the people who are trafficked in to the country for everything from manual labour to sex?

· Is it the consumers who are put at risk by products which may not be safe for any manner of reasons?

· Is it the government which loses tax revenues?

Does buying that cheap fake CD or DVD seem such a good idea anymore?

And what happens when the forged goods turn out to be medicines?...

There are always risks with counterfeits and unregulated systems.

In Somerset our Lib Dem County Councillors have overseen the purchase of a device to check for lead paint on fake toys. Lead paint is a real danger for children, especially in the run up to Christmas where parents might be tempted by "cheap" offers. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true...

So it may seem a long way from organised crime, but buying a cheap DVD or gift this Christmas could be helping to fund many things you would not be so supportive of.

Surely that's a key part of supporting our communities in a liberal democrat way.