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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, Parcelforce is a business which has been in considerable trouble for some 10 years. During that period it has not made any profit. The situation has grown much worse over recent years as a result of the sharp fall in the number of parcels being sent out in the particular range in which Parcelforce has concentrated most of its business. It makes no sense for Parcelforce or the Post Office not to tackle that situation. If it is not tackled, then the drain on the public purse will simply increase ever more. Parcelforce has to maintain a very large infrastructure while it simply does not have sufficient parcels to process through. Not only does it make commercial sense, it makes national sense to restructure the network.
The final point I should like to make is that the Post Office has made it clear that it will seek to redeploy those who lose their jobs, or deal with the job losses through voluntary redundancy or natural wastage. Every attempt is to be made to redeploy people, but it does not make commercial sense and it is not in the national interest to maintain a large infrastructure serving a parcel delivery service which is declining at a very rapid rate.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I suggest that it is safe to say that everyone supports the objectives of the Proceeds of Crime Bill. There is something very unattractive about criminals enjoying the proceeds of their crimes when they come out of prison, even if they have served a long sentence. Of course it is even less attractive when they have never been convicted and thus never punished. We all agree about the end to be achieved, but I have to say that I have serious doubts about the means which have been proposed.
My first doubt concerns whether in reality the elaborate procedure now being proposed by the creation of a new agency will be any more effective in recovering the proceeds of crime than are the existing procedures. Will this new body, which it must be remembered will cost some £40 million over the next two years, be truly cost-effective? That question requires the answer to a preliminary question: why is the existing legislation thought to be working less well than had been hoped? Surely we should be given a satisfactory answer to that question before we throw yet more legislation and yet more new agencies at the problem.
My second doubt is more than a doubt. It arises in connection with Part 5 of the Bill. Is it acceptable for a civil court to have the power to impose what will be in effect a criminal sanctionI have no doubt whatever
I shall first make three or four short preliminary points. In so far as the Bill consolidates existing law contained in the Criminal Justice Act 1988, as amended on numerous occasions, and the Drug Trafficking Act 1994, it can do nothing but good. At the least the Government should get a pat on the back for that. Perhaps I may add here that I am glad to see that Ministers have not made any attempt to consolidate with the two Acts that I have mentioned the forfeiture provisions contained in the Terrorism Act 2000. As I tried to point out in my report on the question of legislation against terrorism, forfeiture under terrorism legislation serves a quite different purpose. I do not think it can be said that terrorists benefit from their horrific crimes in any ordinary sense of the word and it is that benefit which we are trying to get at with this Bill. I am glad, therefore, that terrorism has not been included in the consolidation.
Some of the provisions in Part 2, covering the consolidation of the two existing Acts, go further than I would like. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, mentioned some of them in her excellent and very comprehensive speech. I agree also with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, in relation to the reverse burden of proof. Surely it should be made clear that this ought to be what we lawyers call an evidential burden and not a persuasive burden, although I doubt any layman will understand. These are largely matters which should be dealt with at a later stage of these proceedings, not today. I do not propose to say anything more about them.
My second preliminary point is that when we are considering a Bill such as thiswhich is in part pure consolidation, in part consolidation with amendments and in part brand-new lawI, for one, would find it very convenient if there was a simple way in which one could distinguish what is old from what is new. Otherwise one can spend many hours, as I have spent, ferreting around and, if one can find it at allit is not always easycomparing one piece of legislation with other pieces of legislation.
When I was chairman of the Joint Committee on Consolidation Billsa post which I can confidently say is the dreariest job in the Palace of Westminsterit was made very easy for us; we could see what was old and what was new. Perhaps the same kind of thing could be done when we are considering the immensely long Bill that we have before us today. Perhaps it could be included in the Explanatory Notes, which would enable us to take a more intelligent interest in the provisions of the Bill and save a lot of time.
My third preliminary point concerns the structure of the Bill. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Goodhart, said about that. If it is any comfort to him, I was just as much confused as he was in trying to find my way around until I suddenly came to a definition many, many clauses later.
Turning to the language in which the Bill is couched, there was a time, not so long ago, when clauses in a Bill consisted of one or more sentencessometimes quite long sentences, but sentences which one could understand as one went along. Indeed, there was a time, even longer ago, when whole statutes consisted of a single sentence without any punctuation. I do not suggest that we should go back to those days, but have we not gone too far in the opposite direction? I find the staccato method of modern draftsmanship very trying. It reminds me of filling up those endless forms that we all have to fill up in which it states, "If the answer to question four is 'yes', go to question five; if the answer to question four is 'no', go straight to question six" and so on. It is almost as though we cannot be trusted to join up two sentences. Every sentence seems to be a separate clause or a separate paragraph throughout the Bill. Does the Minister know whether this is something that we have wished on parliamentary draftsman, or is it only the fashion of the moment?
My fourth preliminary point is of a different nature. When looking at the proceedings at the Committee stage in another place, it seemed to me that the Opposition Benches put up a splendid and well sustained fight, even if it was not wholly successful. However, I noticed that when they were hard pressed they would say, almost as an argument of last resort, "Well, you wait until this Bill gets to the House of Lords and see what the Law Lords have to say". I seem to be the only Law Lord here today and I feel that I should call up reinforcements. Certainly I feel as though the members of the Standing Committee in the other place are breathing down my neck. I hope that I come up to their expectations, but I doubt somehow that I shall.
Turning to the Bill, Part 1 creates yet another agencyand one almost groans as one says sowhich will cost, as I have said, £40 million over the next two years. Will it be cost effective? The main function of the new agency, as I understand it, is to act as the enforcement authority under Part 5. I shall come back to that. But the director also has what I call a kind of walk-on part in relation to Part 2. He can ask the court to proceed under Clause 6in which case he must provide statements of information under Clause 17and will then act as the enforcement authority under Clause 35.
However, I cannot understand why these tasks cannot be equally well performed by the Crown Prosecution Service. Why do we need two separate agencies doing exactly the same thing in relation to Part 2 of the Bill and performing precisely the same functions? How will they divide the work between them? Will they take it in turns? Will they say, "It's your turn now to deal with this and it's my turn to deal with the next one"? It seems to me that this is not only, at best, quite unnecessary duplication of effort but, at worst, a recipe for confusion or, even worse, for disaster.
That brings me back to the question of what the Bill is trying to achieve. What exactly are the shortcomings or defects which Ministers see in the present legislation? How exactly will the new legislation cure
Only last month, there was the reported decision of the House, to which the Minister referred, in the case of Benjafield. In that case, the defendant was charged with 14 offences of theft. He pleaded guilty to two of those charges, involving about £5,000, and might have expected a fairly modest penalty. Quite unexpectedly, one imagines, the other 12 charges were simply dropped; the Crown Prosecution Service did not proceed with them. What was the reason? It was perfectly straightforwardthe defendant found himself the subject of a confiscation order, based on the two charges, in the sum of £214,000. It would have been £500,000 if that sum had been available, which it was not.
So the existing legislation is working. Judges are not reluctant to make confiscation orders if they are asked to do so. Quite the contrary, they make them whenever they are asked and their decisions are, as we have seen, upheld on appeal.
If the Minister was to say that judges are not asked to make confiscation orders as often as they should be because the Crown Prosecution Service is too busy to do the necessary legwork, then surely the answer is simplethe Crown Prosecution Service should employ more staff specifically dedicated to that task. Why duplicate the task by setting up a new agency?
When the Minister was giving what he said were the defects of the existing legislation, he referred to its complexity. When replying, he may have some difficulty in persuading the House that the proposed legislation is any less complex. Indeed, it seems to be much more complex than the existing legislation.
The true reason why larger sumsmore in totalare not recovered is quite different. It is perfectly simple. The sophisticated criminals who operate today are just too clever to be caught with recoverable assets in their hands. If that is the true reason, how will the creation of a new agency make any difference? Is the idea that the Crown Prosecution Service is a tired, old-fashioned organisation and that we need a new agency to inject new life into the ideanew men, new ideas? If that is the idea, I hope that the Minister will say so.
I turn in conclusion to Part 5 of the Bill, which has been described as the centrepiece of the new legislation. Despite the fact that one suspects that Ministers are quite proud of their new Part 5, I noted a rather significant health warning in a Cabinet Office report dated June 2000. It stated that Part 5 might be viewed as contentious by some. That seems to me to be the under-statement of the decade.
The basic objection is simply as followsand one would have thought that it was shared by everyone. Let us suppose that a person is charged with the theft of a car or a sum of money. He is acquitted by the jury on the grounds that there is insufficient evidence to convince the jury beyond reasonable doubt. Along
A Home Office Memorandum, dated 7th January 2002, advances a number of arguments in support of Part 5. It says that the critics of Part 5 have got hold of the wrong end of the stick and that the civil recovery proceedings are reparative in nature. It states that society as a whole, not merely the previous owner of the car, has been damaged by the theft of the car and society as a whole is, therefore, entitled to be compensated.
That is simple nonsense. It is the kind of argument which, as Lord Atkin once said in a famous case, might have found favour with the Court of King's Bench in the time of Charles I, but surely should not find favour today. One might as well say that a prisoner's sentence is reparative in nature because in some way he is paying a debt to society.
I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General will seek to support the view expressed in the Home Office Memorandum. It was utterly demolished by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its further report on the Bill. Its view is that Part 5 may well fall foul of the European convention. One sometimes forgets that the convention is intended as a minimum, not a maximum, of what is required for the protection of what I still like to call the liberty of the subject. I do not care whether or not Part 5 will fall foul of the European convention. It is sufficient for me that it falls foul of what I regard as acceptable in English law.
Therefore, if any Member on the Liberal Democrat Benches or on the Conservative Benches, or indeed any distinguished lawyer on the Government Back Benches feels bold enough to oppose the Question that Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill, I will give such amendment my fullest possible supportexcept for Chapter 3, which seems to me to serve a useful, or at any rate a legitimate, purpose.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Goodhart complained about the lengthor, it might be said, the weightof the Bill. History records that in 1716 the Act of Attainder passed on my noble kinsman, the 6th Earl of Mar, the confiscation of his estate and the estate's transfer to the
The Bill sets out to improve the legal system's ability to collect in the ill-gotten gains of criminal activity, and so to take more effective measures to disrupt organised crime and, it is to be hoped, make it less worthwhile. That is clearly necessary, as it would seem that drug trafficking in Scotland may well be worth £800 million per annumwhich I understand to be 1 per cent of Scottish GDP.
Of course, my remark about "the legal system's ability" is all wrongfor the Bill deals with all three legal systems within the United Kingdom, and does so openly and constructively. My interest is, inevitably, in the Scottish clauses. However, I fully appreciate that the aim of the Bill is to create as uniform an approach to the proceeds of crime as the three distinct legal systems will allow.
The Scottish clauses exist in the Bill because of the passage of a Sewel Motion in the Scottish Parliament in October last year. Indeed, some aspects of the Scottish legislation have yet to be brought before the Scottish Parliament. The Bill is a good use of the Sewel Motion procedure. However, we must always be on the look-out for significant amendment to the Scottish clauses, because significant amendment would raise the question of what exactly the Scottish Parliament agreed to last October.
The Minister has explained the Bill to the House, and it passes the test of expediency. By that, I mean that it contains several measures which are necessary to improve performance in the recovery of the proceeds of crime. During the passage of the Bill through this House, I hope that the House will be persuaded that the measures are more than expedient, and that they are just.
There has to be some concern about the conditions required to satisfy the court in Clause 94, on making confiscation orders in Scotland. I am encouraged by the Law Society of Scotland to suggest that there ought to be a fourth condition at this early stage requiring a statement of information from the prosecutor. That would be similar to the requirements in Clause 104. I accept that the statement would be somewhat limited because the investigation would be only in its earliest stages, but I believe that it should be there.
Similarly, in the case of restraint ordersin Clauses 122 and 123the Bill is rather forward in freezing property in all cases at the earliest stage of investigation. I am being encouraged to believe that restraint orders at the earliest stage should be made only if it is arguably necessary, with a real risk of dispersal, rather than on a blanket basis.
In the measures for civil recovery, I hope that there is sufficient imperative to start at the top of the hierarchy, with criminal proceedings, not just an easy option of going straight to civil recovery, or even taxation.
Finally, I must mention the Scottish matrimonial home provisions in Clause 101. It is right to observe the practice of the Scottish courts towards matrimonial homes in existing confiscation legislation. This is not a problem of devolution; it is evidence of an acceptable lack of symmetry between the legal systems, which are rightly pre-Union institutions of considerable antiquity.
I wish the Bill well in its passage through the House. Its heart is in the right place at least. It has been surprisingly well scrutinised in the other place, with more than 115 hours of debate. I welcome that. Ministers will be pleased to hear that I believe that the Bill is not too far from being ready for the road.
Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: My Lords, as one of only three Members of your Lordships' House taking part in the debate who are not Front-Benchers, I already find myself in agreement with much that has been said. I hope that it will not be felt that my remarks are merely repetitive.
For example, one could not fail to agree with the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, when he described this as a substantial Bill. Given the number of pages and clauses, to which the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, referred, it would be fair to say that it is rather larger than the average novel. One could not possibly suggest that it was not a highly complex Bill. I have tried to read the whole Second Reading debate in the House of Commons, but I have not succeeded in reading anywhere near the whole of the Bill. I was much attracted to the proposal of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, that it should be colour coded so that we know which parts we need to read. If I have misunderstood the intentions behind the Bill or the way in which they are carried out, I hope that it will be put down to the complexity of the Bill. I apologise in advance if I am mistaken in some of the assumptions that I have drawn.
Of course, as everyone has said, the Bill is desirable and welcome. Everyone in the country would agree that any measure that improves the power of the courts, particularly the Crown Courts, to prevent the criminal benefiting from the proceeds of his crime is welcome. Like others in this House, I have spent much of my professional career prosecuting or defending in the criminal courts or sitting as a recorder trying cases at that level. I am, therefore, aware that greed is a major motive of crime and concerned about the enormous profits involved in major crime. That covers the proceeds not only of drug trafficking, but also of major customs fraud, or any other kind of fraud, including long firm fraud, as well as major armed robberies.
I accept that the proceeds of crime have a corrosive effect on society and provide the money to breed further criminal activity. The drug dealerwhether he is dealing in cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy or heroinis making, or setting out to make, large sums of money at the cost of creating human misery for many other people. Equally, and perhaps in some ways more
Much has recently been said about decriminalising or legitimising the use of cannabis. I have one remark to make about that. No one can decriminalise or legalise the use of cannabis without realising that, in doing so, he will be bound to decriminalise or legalise the supply of cannabis. We cannot make it an offence to supply a person with goods that he is free to use. Unless we sort out the supply before we consider how to deal with decriminalisation, my worry is that we will simply spread the drug dealer's power and influence to start young people on cannabis and then work them through to ecstasy, heroin and the other much more dangerous and addictive drugs.
I have no doubt about the importance of the overall aim of the Bill. However, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, and my noble friend Lady Buscombe said so effectively, it is equally important to remember that the responsibility of Parliament and of this House is to scrutinise legislation to ensure that, while achieving laudable and desirable aims, we do not go beyond what is necessary or practical and do not set aside or undermine principles that have been accepted as the foundation of our legal system and our liberty for many years. I refer to three principles: the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof in criminal cases, and the rights of innocent third parties. The Bill has to be tested in detail on how it meets those issues, as well as achieving its main objective. Those principles should be set aside only if it is considered necessary to do so after proper scrutiny of their need.
That leads me to have cause for concern on three areas of the Bill. The first is the whole concept of a criminal lifestyle: on what it is based, how it is proved, and how wide it goes. The second is the right in all cases to seize and recover goods through civil proceedings without recourse to the criminal courts. The third is adequate protection of the innocent third party. In the Bill's laundering provisions, we may be in danger of making the test of negligence rather than the test of knowledge the basis of a serious offence. I shall very briefly deal with those three matters.
If I have understood the position on criminal lifestyle aright, if someone is convicted of any offence in a criminal court and the court is asked to do so by the prosecution, the court must proceed with the process of making a confiscation order. The court has no discretion. When proceeding to make that confiscation order, the court is required, first, to decide whether that person has what is described as a "criminal lifestyle". It must then go on to decide whether he has benefited from his general criminal behaviour. But what is the test of that "criminal lifestyle"? If I have understood the Bill correctly, if the man or woman has been convicted of a drug trafficking offence, that in itself would establish that he or she has a criminal lifestyle. The same would apply if it was a money laundering offence or an offence specified in regulations made by the Secretary
If the crime meets any of those tests, the court would have to proceed to assume effectively that any property given to that person in the past six years, any expenditure he has made on property in those years, and any property in his possession are the result of his general criminal conduct. If the defendant wished to challenge that, the burden of making that challenge would rest on him. It seems to me that those are fairly draconian powers.
The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, used an example that I was going to use. Should such powers be used against a possibly rather pathetic defendant with three separate shoplifting convictions in the previous six years? Should they be used against someone who has committed one offence of possessing drugs for the purpose of supply, however small that amount of drugs may be? Or should we include in the Bill a de minimis clause, as the Minister says he plans to do in Part 5? Perhaps better, should we not adopt the proposal by my noble friend Lady Buscombe to give the courts the discretion to decide the type of case in which these powers should be used? If we do not choose one of the latter options, there is a danger that much of the agency's time will be taken up unnecessarily in pursuing minor cases, rather than concentrating on the major cases as it should.
As for the power to recover through the civil courts, I fully understand the argument advanced in the paper from the Home Office that it is still necessary to recover money obtained from crime when the person has died or gone overseas. However, should not the power to use such a provision at least be limited to cases in which there is an apparent reason why criminal proceedings could not be brought and a conviction obtained? I am concerned that, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, said, the Bill's drafting is such that the civil burden of proof could be used to recover goods even in cases where there has been an acquittal, or where a conviction is doubtful, because of the criminal burden of proof.
So I believe that there are issuesthe burdens of proof, the presumption of innocence, the risk of not providing sufficient protection for the rights of the innocentthat will have to be examined in Committee. I apologise that part of my speech has been repetitive and somewhat rambling. However, I believe in and support the Bill's principles. I also support what the Government wish to do. Nevertheless, like others who have spoken, I hope that the Government achieve that goal by means that are compatible with and do not endanger some of the major principles of our legal liberty.
The Bill's complexity conceals its draconian effect. These confiscation orders are no small beer: they involve the possibility of long sentences of imprisonment in default. In Section 139 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, certain maximum periods are set out for the non-payment of orders. Accordingly, a confiscation order that exceeds £1 million can attract a further 10-year sentence if the compensation payable is not paid, and default on a £250,000 order can attract a five-year sentence. As the Bill's provisions, particularly Clause 14, provide that the confiscation order is to be left out entirelynot taken into account at allin considering the sentence that should be passed on an offender, the offender could receive, for example, 25 years for a drug offence, but then be subject to an order in excess of £1 million with the possibility of another 10 years should he default. That is how the Bill can operate.
Currently, the prosecution presents its case at trial and may maintain that the defendant is not a major player in events. Nevertheless, if the unit concerned with recoverynot the Crown Prosecution Service, but the police or Customs and Excisedecides that assets have passed through his hands, he would be responsible for those assets regardless of the fact that the prosecution maintains that he has never touched them. He may be an accomplice; he may play a small part in the particular offence of which he is convicted. If he is convicted the assumptions operate, and it is for him to prove what has happened to the assets.
Very often that is a completely impossible burden because the money may have passed to confederates abroad. There is no way in which he will be believed when he gives evidence, nor will he be able to call his confederates to say what they have done with the money that they may have received from, for example, the sale of contraband, or to prove what has been paid to suppliers. Consequently, he will be pursued not for any money that is necessarily in his hands, but for the whole of the money that may simply have passed through a bank account in his name. That is tough. It may be that that is the kind of draconian instrument that we require. I am seeking to establish before your Lordships that the existing legislation is already tough.
I admit to a certain frisson of excitement when I saw an attractive picture of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, in one of today's daily papers next to a picture of me, with the headline "Shame on you". That is nothing to the frisson of excitement that will have passed through the relatives of my wife in Scotland, which is where they are at the moment. It is simply daft to suggest that the Opposition Benches in this House are in any way weak on crime and are anxious to support drug dealers or those who have made large fortunes out of criminal activities. That is not the case.
The previous legislation required that the target was a proven offender. In my view, the civil recovery provisions in Part 5 of the Bill have been rightly attacked by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who speaks with great authority, as a façade. An entirely new concept is being introduced. The burden of proof circumvents the safeguards that exist for those effectively charged with a criminal offence. That is one of the aspects that, in previous decisions, have caused the judges in this country to say that the current legislation is proportional, but will future legislation be proportional?
Another item on which the courts have relied has been that the prosecutor exercises a discretion to bring proceedings under these provisions. The court also has a discretion. Perhaps I can refer your Lordships to the judgment of the former Lord Chief Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bingham, in the recent case that came before the Privy Council from Scotland. He said:
The Government cannot relyas did the noble Lord, Lord Rookerupon the decisions which have taken place under the existing legislation. They cannot rely on the fact that this legislation is proportionate when it invades the very matters which affected the judges who came to the conclusion that the existing legislation complies with the European convention. For that reason, we shall consider in detail in Committee the provisions of the Bill.
As my noble friend Lord Carlisle of Bucklow said, the proceeds of crime have a corrosive effect on society and in themselves breed crime. But, at the same time, I am sure the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General will agree with me that the Bill changes, in some respects dramatically, the balance of power between the state and the citizen. I hope that he will further agree that it is right that your Lordships' House should scrutinise the text extremely carefully.
My contribution will be in inverse proportion to the length of the Bill. I propose to refer only briefly to three parts. Part 2 was addressed by almost all noble Lords. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, congratulated the Opposition in another place and the Liberal Democrat Party for the excellent way in which the Bill was scrutinised in Committee. I believe that there were no less than 39 sittings.
At least two important concessions were made by the Government as a result of that process. The first was the undertaking to schedule a list of offences which were likely to give rise to the definition of criminal lifestyle and we welcome that. The second was the decision to apply the affirmative resolution procedure to any new offences which would fall within the definition of criminal lifestyle. We think that both initiatives are very constructive. We are much obliged for them.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that the most difficult paragraphs in Part 2 are connected with the definition of a course of criminal conduct. It could be satisfied either by offences which were very grave or which were rather trivial. In circumstances where the offences which gave rise to the mandatory assumption were, let us say, three shoplifting offences I share his view that the Bill's reaction is disproportionate. When the noble Lord tables an amendment to the provision, the Opposition Benches will support the solution he proposes: that there would be circumstances where a judge might take the view that it is wholly unreasonable to move from such a course of criminal conduct to the mandatory assumptions.
I hope that the noble and learned Lord will reflect on that issue between now and Committee stage. Another place gave some consideration to the matter. I know that your Lordships' House will be thinking carefully about it again.
I make two further points, telegraphically, on Part 2. One is the obvious point about the difference in the treatment of the family home between Scotland and the other parts of the United Kingdom. In my submission, that is in principle discriminatory and could well fall foul of the provisions of the Human Rights Act. The other refers to a point made most eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, when he distinguished between the persuasive and evidentiary burden in circumstances where the burden of proof is reversed in criminal matters. Again, I share his views on that.
With regard to Part 5, I need do little more than refer noble Lords to the remarkable speech by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. I entirely endorse his conclusion that it is highly likely that the courts would decide that the procedure laid down in Part 5 is of a criminal and not a civil nature. If that conclusion is correct, Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights applies and would condemn those parts of the Bill which gave force retrospectively to Part 5.
Moreover, a decision in favour of the agency under Part 5 could be reached by evidential rules which were much lighter than the rules which apply in a criminal casewith regard to the balance of probability and with hearsay evidence and compelled evidence also admissible. For such a grave outcome for the individual, those rules of evidence are not tight enough. They do not provide the individual with sufficient protection.
I refer again to a point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. Were the civil procedure to follow a failure to convict, much of the evidence that arose in the criminal trial could be re-run in the civil trial to favour the state. Equally, a decision to recover under Part 5 in the civil trial could be used in a subsequent criminal trial, perhaps calling into question a presumption of innocence. Therefore, although the Opposition entirely understand the point underlying Part 5, and would not go so far as to say that it should not be there, they believe that the procedures implied by the civil approach are not sufficiently tight to guarantee the protection we would expect for the citizen.
Finally, so far as concerns the procedures with respect to money laundering, we wonder whether a negligent act by a professional in a City firm should give rise to the penalty of imprisonment. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will think again about that issue too.
The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. Subject to certain reservations, the overall effect of the speeches by noble Lords is support for the
However, the present system does not produce the results. It is estimated that the value-added of drugs is 1 per cent of GDPperhaps as much as £8.5 billion in the United Kingdombut less than £20 million was recovered in 2000-2001 by the existing procedures. Therefore, a key issue is to have a workable Bill. I noted the promise made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. If I took down her words accurately, she said that it was the will and wish of the Opposition to assist the Government to achieve a workable piece of legislation. The Government will be happy to judge that promise by the results of what takes place in Committee In that connection, it will be important to discover whether the approval of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, of at least part of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, said in relation to Part 5 actually amountsI thought he was working towards itto denaturing Part 5 to such an extent that it would not work. That would not provide a workable Bill, and I shall return to that point.
In a Bill of this size, it is inevitable that there will be divergent views on some issues. My fundamental point is that we very much hope we can work together in Committee to ensure that the Bill's central themes are not significantly weakened. Although a balance has to be struck about which there is no difference of view, the Government's overall approach is to ensure that the legislation is not applied unfairly or disproportionately. We owe a duty to the public to ensure that the law is not reduced to such a level that it renders the legislation powerless to act against those who will take every opportunity to circumvent its effect.
I shall do my best to deal with the points that have been raised. It is helpful to know what issues will be raised in Committee. However, some points are perhaps more appropriate for Committee Stage than Second Reading, and I hope that I shall be forgiven if I omit some of them. I do not intend, however, to tread the interesting paths started by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and continued by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, about the quality of the draftsmanship, the absence or presence of punctuation, or whether it is right that Scotland should have its own provisions separately set out in a single, comprehensive part. No doubt parliamentary counsel will read their comments with interest. As my noble friend Lord Rooker said in opening the debate,
I deal, first, with Part 1 of the Bill. My noble friend Lord Rooker said that this Bill is part of a wider programme, including the provision of funds for more financial investigators. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, asked whether the establishment of the new agency would result in a loss of existing expertise in financial investigation. I can assure her that that certainly will not happen. There is a need to improve financial investigation skills. The priority to be given to financial investigation was a key recommendation of the Performance and Innovation Unit's report, which preceded this Bill, in June 2000. The agency will not entirely take over confiscation investigations from existing law enforcement agencies. However, it will share the confiscation functions of the law enforcement and prosecution authorities.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, asked whether it was necessary to have a new agency. The Government's view is that it most certainly is necessary. If I may draw on my own experience, I have seen the operation of a similar agency established in Dublin, and I have been much impressed by the joined-up way in which it is working with tax, Customs and police authorities, and financial investigators. I am quite satisfied that the PIU's recommendation that there should be a separate agency is a good one.
We need the legislation because of the defects in the current scheme. Those defects are referred to in the PIU's report, and many of the concepts contained in the Bill derive from the recommendations of that report. It emphasised that the present confiscation law has been developed in a piecemeal fashion, which has contributed to its under use. The fact is that confiscation orders are currently made in only 10 per cent of drug trafficking cases, and overall in only 0.3 per cent of criminal cases.
The problems of the present scheme were identified in summary by my noble friend Lord Rooker in opening. For example, the separate treatment of drug-trafficking and other criminal activity renders the legislation ineffective against sophisticated criminals, because it is often impossible to distinguish between the proceeds of drug trafficking and the proceeds of other crime. Modern technology allows funds to be transferred with sophistication and speed, which means that it is necessary to have new investigative powers in order to be able to trace them.
I turn to the parts of the Bill dealing with criminal confiscation, Parts 2 to 4. I did not detect any disagreement from the noble Lords who spoke as to the principles that lie behind those parts of the Bill. Let me therefore address some of the specific points that were made, if only to give an idea of what we would say in Committee if probed on them.
I turn to the issue of criminal lifestyle. Again, the fact that assumptions must be made by the court is already the position in relation to a single drugs-trafficking offence under existing legislation. The question with which we are concerned therefore is the definition of "criminal lifestyle" and how it will operate. I am grateful that the Government's intentions, as indicated by my noble friend Lord Rooker in openingto produce a schedule of the lifestyle offences and to accept the recommendation of the committee in that respectwere welcomed.
In that context, I return to the issue of serious risk of injustice. Some examples raised by noble Lords were precisely the circumstances in which one would anticipate the court saying, "There is a serious risk of injustice in making the assumption in this case, having regard to what we know about this offender and having regard to the specific circumstances of the offence". That is an important safeguard to be borne in mind.
Two issues were raised in relation to the burden of proof. One was the persuasive and evidential burden and the other the standard of proof. It was suggested, as it was suggested in another place, that an evidential rather than a persuasive burden should be placed on the defendant. The Government's view has been that a persuasive burden is necessary. Why is that the case and what is the difference?
I take the example of an allegation in the course of proceedings that there is an unexplained transaction of £10,000. If all that the offender is required to do to discharge the evidential burden is simply to say, "I am a gambler", it will place on the prosecutor a difficult if not impossible obligation to prove where that £10,000 came from. It is in the nature of the sorts of transaction with which we are concerned that there are no paper trails which can be followed for the proceeds of drug trafficking, trafficking in humans, or whatever the behaviour may be.
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