Select Committee on European Scrutiny Second Report


PROTECTION OF THE EURO AGAINST COUNTERFEITING


(22408)
9961/01
— 

Initiative of the Kingdom of Sweden for the adoption by the Council of a Framework Decision amending Council Framework Decision 2000/383/JHA of 29 March 2000 on increasing protection by criminal penalties and other sanctions against counterfeiting in connection with the introduction of the euro.


Legal base: Articles 31(e) and 34(2)(b) EU; consultation; unanimity
Forwarded to the Council: 13 June 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 12 July 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 26 September 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (21979) 14935/00: HC 28-viii (2000-01), paragraph 7 (14 March 2001) and HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 23 (18 July 2001)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared



Background

12.1 The current document originated as Article 5 in a draft Decision on the protection of the euro against counterfeiting[29]. When that proposal was discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in May, it was agreed that Article 5 should properly be a Framework Decision made under the EU Treaty (instead of being made under the EC Treaty), because it concerned the approximation of the criminal laws of Member States. It is therefore now a separate document. The Article provides for Member States to recognise the principle of the recognition of previous convictions for offences related to counterfeiting the euro.

12.2 When the previous Committee considered the draft Decision (in March), it did not clear the proposal, partly because it had questions about Article 5. We cleared the draft Decision at our first meeting (in July), in the knowledge that Article 5 had been deleted.

The document

12.3 The purpose of the current document is to incorporate the former Article 5 into the existing Framework Decision on this issue — 200/383/JHA of 29 May 2000 — which the previous Committee cleared in March 2000.[30] It reproduces the text of the former Article 5 and states that it is to be inserted into the Framework Decision as Article 9a. ADD 1 is an explanatory note from the Kingdom of Sweden.

12.4 The text of the Article reads as follows:

    "Every Member State shall recognise the principle of the recognition of previous convictions under the conditions prevailing under its domestic law and, under those same conditions, shall recognise for the purpose of establishing habitual criminality final sentences handed down in another Member State for the offences referred to in Articles 3 to 5 of this Framework Decision, or the offences referred to Article 3 of the Convention[31], irrespective of the currency counterfeited."

The previous Committee's questions and the Government's view

12.5 In its Report of 1 March on the draft Decision,[32] the previous Committee stated that it would not wish to see the then Article 5 agreed without a proper infrastructure[33] in place, and without a clear definition of "habitual criminality". In response, the then Minister, in her letter of 11 May, told us that the Government did not consider that the provision should be delayed until the infrastructure was ready, although she acknowledged that the infrastructure was necessary for the provision to work effectively. On "habitual criminality" she stated:

    "The Government notes that the term 'habitual criminality' is used in the 1929 International Convention for the Suppression of Counterfeiting Currency. In the absence of an Explanatory Report to that Convention defining the term, the Government considers that 'habitual criminality' would apply where a person has been convicted of a similar offence on at least one previous occasion."

12.6 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 26 September, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for anti-drugs co-ordination and organised crime (Mr Bob Ainsworth) reminds us of this statement, and tells us that it remains the case. He also tells us that the Government considers that changes to legislation will be necessary in England and Wales in the light of new sentencing provisions being taken forward in the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill, although they are not needed at present. Changes will be needed to the 1995 Criminal Procedures (Scotland) Act.

12.7 The Minister understands that the Council aims to adopt the draft Framework Decision "in the next few months".

Conclusion

12.8 We agree that these provisions are more properly made under the EU Treaty than under the EC Treaty, and consider that their incorporation into the existing Framework Decision is sensible. The previous Committee's concerns about the Article itself have in the main been answered by the Government, although we urge the Minister to press for speedy development of an appropriate infrastructure.

12.9 We clear the document.



29  (21979) 14935/00:see headnote to this paragraph. Back

30  (20925) 14102/99; see HC 23-x (1999-2000), paragraph 5 (1 March 2000). Back

31  International Convention of 20 April 1929 for the Suppression of Counterfeiting Currency . Back

32  (21979) 14935/00:see headnote to this paragraph. Back

33  In particular, a reliable EU-wide data-base of criminal records. Back


 
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Prepared 2 November 2001