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article imageOp-Ed: EncroChat UK raids arrest hundreds, redefine law enforcement

By Paul Wallis     Jul 2, 2020 in Crime
London - The massive police operation is the result of a long-running investigation into an encrypted phone chat network called EncroChat. This may well be the first redefinition of law enforcement in the 21st century.
A large number of the UK’s infamous heavy brigade have been arrested and may well be permanently out of business. The EncroChat network was vast, with special handsets used by tens of thousands of criminals. It was initially cracked by French and Dutch agencies which infiltrated the platform. UK police were able to identify and track large numbers of crime groups and individuals. They uncovered murder plots, kidnappings, and a whole spectrum of other criminal operations.
EncroChat eventually realized in June that the network was compromised, but it was far too late. The police already had enough evidence to make arrests.
The National Crime Authority (NCA) states that the breaking of EncroChat was the biggest operation in UK history. The operation is also being hailed as a major defeat for the UK’s so-called “untouchables”, career criminals who’ve been beyond the law for years. The EncroChat operations have gathered enough evidence for prosecutions of major crime figures and lower-tier organized criminals.
Great work, but a grim perspective on the realities of organized crime
The EncroChat raids make crime fiction look ridiculous at best. The sheer size and scale of information obtained in the organized crime raids in the UK is staggering. Literal palette loads of mint condition banknotes, weapons, vast amounts of drugs, and more were seized.
The problem is that these raids have also revealed the depth and range of modern organized crime. The UK raids show big networks, a lot of money moving around, and a wide range of criminal operations including extortion, and other “traditional” crimes.
A lot of obvious questions arise:
• How much murder is routine business for these guys?
• How many members of the public are directly affected and/or at risk through these obviously large and diverse criminal operations?
• Police seized 54 million pounds in the raids. This would be “working capital”. What other assets are involved?
• How does anyone just happen to get hold of entire palette loads of mint-condition UK banknotes? That’s not easy to do.
• What are the international connections? The UK had 10,000 out of 60,000 known users of EncroChat. Obviously, there’s a wider range of international operations in the mix.
• Corrupt police and “officials” have also been arrested. To what extent is corruption an issue?
Is police hacking illegal? Definitely not in this case.
Given that EncroChat was a purely electronic medium, the standard criminal legal defence of the “unlawful obtaining of evidence” fails the reality test abysmally on all levels. To start with, it’s impractical. Monitoring criminal communications was the only option available to the police. No other method could have successfully achieved basic law enforcement goals.
This method of obtaining information and evidence can also be seen as a necessary form of essential surveillance in real time to prevent major crimes. Given the serious nature of possible murders and other crimes, the theory of illegality in these methods of monitoring high-risk crime is obscene at best. At worst, the idea of illegal obtaining of evidence sabotages basic law enforcement at its most critical protective level.
One estimate of murder conspiracies indicates that up to 200 people may have been at risk. Are the police supposed to ask nicely for evidence? Are the criminals supposed to send the police RSVPs every time they want to kill someone? The “illegal hacking” theory is completely non-viable.
Arguably much worse, the idea that murder and other serious crimes should be considered a privacy issue is long overdue for eradication in legal proceedings. Crime is not a civil right. Nor is murder. With a bit of luck, the EncroChat prosecutions could finally bury that idiotic legal issue, too.
Redefining law enforcement
Forget the “surveillance society”. This was basic law enforcement at a fundamental level. It even protected criminals from almost certain death. Electronic media are the working reality of modern criminal operations.
The law has been much too far behind the facts when it comes to managing very dangerous situations. A bullet in someone’s head isn’t a legal technicality. It’s a common fact around the world.
Either law enforcement can do its job, or it can’t. The real benefit of the EncroChat raids is to update and upgrade modern legal processes.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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