Serious crime must ultimately be met with serious action

A campaign has been launched to discourage the public from buying fake products.

Advertisements will raise awareness about counterfeit goods and how it benefits paramilitaries involved in other crimes such as drug dealing.

The Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has expressed disappointment that the campaign is not more hard hitting.

There is a role to be played in alerting those generally honest people who are tempted to buy fake goods that they are enriching and empowering some very bad people, and Mr Beggs is right to endorse the campaign. But he is also right to say that it needs to be accompanied by something much more hard hitting, a point made by people as diverse as Jim Allister of the TUV and Seamus Close, one-time of Alliance.

The Justice Minister Claire Sugden has said that there is no quick fix to organised crime. This is particularly so in Northern Ireland, where the Troubles allowed paramilitary groups to become entrenched in some deprived communities.

The moral climate was hardly helped by the fact that nationalist Ireland, on both sides of the border, refused to countenance specific sanction against Sinn Fein after IRA criminal outrages such as the Northern Bank heist.

However, there was a breakthrough last year when the SDLP ceased to give Sinn Fein political cover for republican opposition to the National Crime Agency, and so that crucial body was able to extend its powers to Northern Ireland.

We need to see comprehensive action against, among others, republican smugglers on the border and loyalist gangsters in housing estates. This must involve much tougher prison sentencing for such criminals when they are convicted, regardless of the cost and regardless of the various reports into conditions in prisons (which typically gives cover to those apologists who drone on about the rights of thugs).

Confiscation orders need to be used widely, which was one of the key anti crime weapons given to the state when the Assets Recovery Agency was established across the UK in 2003.

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