3. Further letter from Lord Filkin, Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State,|
Home Office, to the Chairman
Crime (International Co-operation) BillGovernment
amendments to introduce mutual recognition of orders freezing
I am writing to let you know that we intend to table
Government amendments to the Crime (International Co-operation)
Bill, which will introduce the mutual recognition of orders freezing
terrorist property. I am writing in similar terms to Lord Dholakia
and Baroness Anelay. We hope to table these amendments early next
week. I anticipate that the amendments will be discussed towards
the end of Committee stage.
As you may already be aware, the Bill as it stands
introduces the mutual recognition of the evidence freezing provisions
of the EU Framework Decision on the execution of orders freezing
property and evidence. It has not been possible to introduce the
asset freezing measures of the Framework Decision for all serious
crime in this Bill due to the complexities of matching the requirements
of the Framework Decision with the existing UK asset freezing
provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Act.
However, we are keen to take the opportunity of the
Crime (International Co-operation) Bill to introduce the aspects
of the Framework Decision relating to the freezing of terrorist
property, which forms a key part of the post 11 September EU anti-terrorism
road map. The amendments will further demonstrate the Government's
commitment to combating terrorism at all possible levels.
The Terrorism Act 2000 already makes provision for
the freezing of terrorist assets in a way which is compatible
with the Framework Decision. Schedule 4 to the 2000 Act provides
for restraint orders (which carry out the same functions as freezing
orders) to secure property, with a view to later confiscation.
These orders specifically apply to property that is supplied or
intended to be used for terrorism, that represents the proceeds
of terrorism or that has been used to pay someone for committing
a terrorist act.
Our proposed amendments will introduce new provisions
into Schedule 4 to the Terrorism Act 2000 setting out the procedure
for transmitting restraint orders abroad under the Framework Decision.
This would mean that when an application is made to the High Court
under the Act, a request might also be submitted for the Court
to sign the certificate required by the Framework Decision for
the order to be transmitted overseas. The order and certificate
would then be sent to the Secretary of State for forwarding to
the state where the property in question is believed to be located.
The requested state would be required to execute the order on
the basis of mutual recognition, under the terms set out in the
Framework Decision. Such provisions will operate between existing
and future Member States of the EU.
With regard to incoming freezing orders, the Terrorism
Act 2000 already provides for the enforcement of external restraint
orders to be dealt with by Order in Council. We propose, however,
to deal with the main provisions for enforcing incoming freezing
orders sent to the UK under the Framework Decision on the face
of the legislation, by inserting appropriate provisions into Schedule
4 of the Terrorism Act. The procedure for executing incoming requests
will work similarly to the procedure already set out in the Bill
for the execution of evidence freezing orders in clauses 20-25.
UK courts will exercise limited discretion over the execution
of orders, though they will be able to refuse orders in restricted
circumstances, such as where it is considered that such an order
infringes convention rights.
In your letter to me of 5 December, the Committee
provisionally concluded that that Bill is compatible with relevant
human rights obligations. The Committee did have concerns over
the implications of customer information and account monitoring
orders (clauses 32-46) and surveillance by overseas police and
customs officers in the UK (clauses 83-85), but I believe that
the Committee was adequately satisfied by my response of 16 December
on these points.
The provisions on freezing terrorist assets could
be seen to engage Convention rights, particularly the right to
property. However, the Government considers that interference
with this right is justified insofar as it is in accordance with
the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests
of national security, public safety or the prevention of disorder
or crime. The provisions are limited to terrorist assets and instrumentalities.
The restraint orders in the Terrorism Act are made on the grounds
that a person has been or may be convicted of an offence under
sections 15 to 18 of the Terrorism Act, and that property is or
may be made the subject of a forfeiture order. The restraint orders
prevent a person dealing with the property to protect it prior
to its forfeiture. The system of restraint and forfeiture orders
in the Terrorism Act may only be used to limit the capability
of terrorist organisations.
Asset freezing has proved to be an effective weapon
in destabilising terrorist organisations, and preventing groups
from profiting from terrorist activity. The new provisions provide
for the mutual recognition of freezing orders between Member States.
The same safeguards apply in relation to Terrorism Act restraint
orders made in relation to property situated abroad as apply in
to such orders made in relation to UK property. And a UK court
will not be required to give effect to a freezing order made by
a court in another Member State in relation to UK property if
to do so would be incompatible with any Convention rights.
In summary, I believe that the introduction of these
measures is compatible with Convention rights, and will provide
us with another useful tool to use against terrorists. I hope
that the Committee will be satisfied that these new proposals
are in line with Convention rights.
8 January 2003