New Clause 7 — Negligent failure to disclose: regulated sector
Orders of the Day — Proceeds of Crime Bill — [2nd Allotted Day]
Mr Bob Ainsworth (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office; Coventry North East, Labour)
No. I have not managed to respond to the intervention of Norman Baker yet. I cannot take another until I have done that. I do not want to stack up interventions, as the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds provokes me to do.
My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar sought some assurances about clause 330(5)(a). The offence for which the clause provides applies both when the person knows and when the person has reasonable grounds for knowing. Subsection (5)(a) provides a defence of a "reasonable excuse" for not disclosing. The examples that my hon. Friend gave would be raised with the prosecutor. She gave an amusing example of a police officer behaving obtusely or unreasonably, but the issues that she raised could be considered by the prosecuting authorities and accepted as reasonable excuses if they believed that they crossed the requisite threshold.
My hon. Friend also asked whether we could consider a code of practice. I am happy to continue the discussion with her if she wants to pursue the matter. However, I fear that introducing such a code could entail problems; it might be deemed to interfere with the independence of the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS needs to decide whether to prosecute, taking all the facts of the case into consideration; it would not necessarily want to be bound by a code of practice that was imposed on it.