Draft Financial Investigations (Northern Ireland) Order 2001

[back to previous text]

Mr. Taylor: I think that it does.

Mr. Ingram: The hon. Gentleman said that he was here to learn, and he may have learned something on that point.

Interestingly, the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Ipik) talked about innocent people being caught up by the order. We must be concerned about that. This type of law is designed to catch those who do wrong and, we hope, bring them to justice. The innocent should not suffer in that process.

Other groups' submissions have been quoted, but it is interesting that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission said in evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly that it had no real difficulty with the order. A body with responsibility for human rights in Northern Ireland reached that conclusion. It said:

    ``If the order is properly applied there should be no real difficulty.''

When we consider the codes of practice with the Law Society and others, we may iron out some of the areas of concern in respect of application.

Article 49 requires that, before the appointment of a financial investigator, there must be an on-going police or Customs investigation into the criminal offence. It is not a case of considering the matter in isolation; the assets are tackled after the investigation of a criminal offence.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire raised the matter of assets, and cited the example of an innocent person having the threat of investigation hanging over him indefinitely. My advice is that that could not happen except if, for some reason, there is a failure to comply with requirements exercised by a financial investigator under schedule 2 of the 1996 order. If there is non-compliance, the investigation proceeds. If those who investigate criminality feel that their investigations are being frustrated, that would bear out their original suspicion. They must then operate on the basis that there may be more to the matter and that is why the person involved has tried to frustrate the investigators' actions.

Clearly, if financial investigators or others working alongside them do not comply with the law, an innocent person has the legal right to seek judicial review. The law would thus be tested.

I hope that I have covered most of the important matters raised in this useful debate. I appreciate the points made by the hon. Members for Montgomeryshire and for Solihull, who share the Government's view about the need to tackle criminality. There is a difference of opinion between the two hon. Gentlemen; the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire is more on our side and if there were a Division I would expect him to say ``aye'' along with the Government. I ask the hon. Member for Solihull to reflect on his reserved position, as I know that he shares the Government's view about the need to tackle the problem. Perhaps in quieter moments this evening or at a later stage he may wish to set aside his reservations and reflect on what has been said in the debate. Perhaps then, if there were a vote—there will not be—he would vote with the Government.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

    That the Committee has considered the draft Financial Investigations (Northern Ireland) Order 2001.

        Committee rose at seventeen minutes past Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Gale, Mr. Roger (Chairman)
Austin, Mr.
Blears, Ms
Bradley, Mr. Peter
Hepburn, Mr.
Ingram, Mr.
Ladyman, Dr.
Marsden, Mr. Paul
Marshall, Mr. Jim
Öpik, Mr.
Taylor, Mr. John M.
Touhig, Mr.

 
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