Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 2

Memorandum submitted by the Home Office

ASSETS RECOVERY AGENCY

  1.  When Simon Dawson and I gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on 10 April I undertook to come back to the Committee on whether funding provided for the Assets Recovery Agency was as much as the Home Office had envisaged or whether we had asked for more (376); and what the criteria used for the calculations at the planning stage and how the figures in the current plan were arrived at (386).

  2.  I have now had an opportunity to look into the information requested by the Committee and with the agreement of Bob Ainsworth I am able to provide the following information, which I hope the Committee will find helpful.

  3.  The sum of £54 million over the period 2001-02 to 2003-04 was allocated for the National Confiscation Agency (as it was then called) and related expenditure by Home Office Ministers in the light of the SR2000 settlement. This was considered adequate for the needs that had then been identified.

  4.  At the time of SR2000, no decision had been taken as to whether the Agency would deal with the particular needs of Northern Ireland from its headquarters in England and Wales or by locating a branch in Northern Ireland. Indeed, it had not been decided whether the Agency would have a single office in England and Wales or several offices (and this matter is still under review). The decision to have a branch in Northern Ireland was taken subsequently, prior to the Introduction of the Proceeds of Crime Bill in October 2001.

  5.  The size of the Northern Ireland branch will depend on whether it exercises for Northern Ireland all the functions of the Agency, including for example enforcement of confiscation orders (or exercises them all from the outset), on decisions about the overall allocation of resources among the various functions of the Agency, and on the outcome of the current spending review. We do not yet have a firm figure in mind, but, for illustrative purposes, it might be up to 10 staff on inception.

  6.  In arriving at the provisional assumptions about the overall size of the Agency, factors which were taken into account included:

    —  the need for the Agency to make a significant contribution to the overall confiscation capacity of the criminal justice system. A figure of 250 confiscation orders would represent between 18 and 25 per cent of the current annual number of confiscation orders achieved;

    —  the need for the Agency to start operations on a manageable scale and to gain experience of new civil powers which, although operating successfully in the Republic of Ireland on a similar basis, are new and untested in the UK;

    —  the fact that civil recovery casework is likely on average to be more staff intensive, and expensive in legal costs, than confiscation;

    —  the fact that the Agency will need to meet the particular needs and circumstances of Northern Ireland including the legacy of paramilitary involvement in crime and make an important contribution to combating organised crime there;

    —  the fact that the Director, when appointed, will have a major input into the speed with which the Agency is built up and on how its resources should be distributed between its different functions.

EXTRADITION

  7.  On a separate topic on which we undertook to come back to the Committee, I can confirm that the legislative framework now exists on both sides of the border for persons to be extradited from the Republic to the UK and vice versa for fiscal crimes, and that this is not dependant on adoption of the European arrest warrant. The Republic of Ireland recently amended its domestic extradition legislation in order to implement the 1995 and 1996 EU Extradition Conventions. As part of this process, they have now become able to consider extradition requests for all categories of fiscal offence, a type of offence previously excluded from UK/Irish extradition arrangements which are governed by the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Act 1965 and equivalent Irish legislation on backing of warrants. The UK gave itself the power to alter the equivalent part of our law by passing s 159(3) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, but it was not previously brought into force due to the lack of reciprocity in this area from Ireland.

  8.  Section 159(3) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 has now been brought into force by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (Commencement No 13) Order 2002. It came into force on 20 March 2002, on the same day as the 1995 and 1996 Conventions came into force in both the UK and Ireland. Therefore it is now possible, using the existing backing of warrant legislation, for extradition for fiscal offences to take place as between the UK and Ireland.

SENTENCING

  9.  The Committee asked for sentencing information about offences such as extortion, counterfeiting and robbery. I enclose three tables, two of which give details of average sentence passed and the maximum sentence available in Northern Ireland for the year 1998 (split between scheduled and non-scheduled offences) and a similar table covering sentences passed in England and Wales in 2000. In both cases, these are the most recent years for which figures are available.

Godfrey Stadlen

Financial Crime Team

25 April 2002

Table 1a: Average custodial length received for different scheduled offences at all courts Northern Ireland 1998(1)(2)

Offence description
Statute
Average custodial length (months)
Maximum sentence available on indictment)
  
  
All persons
Scheduled (3)
Offences certified out(4)
  
Robbery
Theft Act 1969 Sec 8
35.1 (88 persons)
82 (9 persons)
29.7 (79 persons)
Life
Obtaining property by deception
Theft (NI) Order 1978 Sec 15
65 (35 persons)
0.0
6.5 (35 persons)
10 years
Blackmail
Theft Act (NI) 1969 Sec 20
30.9 (21 persons)
36.0 (12 persons)
24.0 (9 persons)
14 years
Receiving stolen goods
Theft Act (NI) 1969 Sec 21
8.0 (23 persons)
28.0 (3 persons)
5.0 (20 persons)
14 years


  (1)  Data are on the principal offence basis.

  (2)  Excludes those given life sentences.

  (3)  Includes offences defined within Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996.

  (4)  The Attorney General has the powers to "de-schedule" offences appearing in Schedule 1 where there was no act of terrorism involved.

Table 1b: Average custodial length received for different offences at all courts Northern Ireland 1998(1)(2)

Offence description
Statute
Average custodial length (months)
Maximum sentence available on indictment)
Supplying or offering (or being concerned in) to supply a controlled drug (Class A or B)
Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, Sec 4(3)
27.0 (5 persons)
Life (14 years for Class B drugs)
Fraudulent evasion of duty etc
Customs & Excise Management Act 1979 Secs 50(2), 68 & 170(1)(2)
18.0 (1 person)
7 years
Making a counterfeit coin or note
Forgery & counterfeiting Act 1981 Sec 14(1)
10 years
  


  (1)  Data are on the principal offence basis.

  (2)  Excludes those given life sentences.

Average custodial length received for different offences at all courts England & Wales 2000(1)(2)(3)

Offence description
Statute
Average custodial length (months)
Maximum sentence available on indictment)
Robbery
Theft Act Sec 8
36.1
Life
Obtaining property by deception
Theft Act 1968 Sec 15
6.2
10 years
Blackmail
Theft Act 1968 Sec 21
31.9
14 years
Receiving stolen goods
Theft Act 1968 Sec 22
6.8
14 years
Supplying or offering (or being concerned in) to supply a controlled drug (Class A or B)
Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 Sec 4(3)
31.6
Life (14 years for Class B)
Fraudulent evasion of duty etc
Customs & Excise Management Act 1979 Secs 50(2)(3), 68(2) & 170(1)(2)
11.6
7 years
Making a counterfeit coin or note
Forgery & counterfeiting Act 1981 Sec 14
44.8
10 years


  (1)  These data are on the principal offence basis.

  (2)  Staffordshire Police Force were only able to submit sample data for persons proceeded against and convicted in the magistrates' courts for the year 2000. Although sufficient to estimate higher orders of data, these data are not robust enough at a detailed level and have been excluded from the table.

  (3)  Excludes those given life sentences.



 
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